The “Bird That Cries With Grief”

Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn, and you will.
~ Vernon Howard

The highlight of my day is walking down our long winding driveway to get the mail. I feel as if I am walking through an art gallery, and I walk slowly and pause often to admire the artistry of each flower, or bird, or insect. I now keep my camera ready because I don’t want to miss capturing something interesting. I regret that my camera was in my pocket when I saw the deer and her two fawns several weeks ago. But even with my camera clicking, sometimes it’s difficult to capture the beauty. As hard as I try, the camera cannot do justice to the meadows purple with thousands of bee balm flowers.

Bee Balm

Nor can I capture the beauty of the many other wildflowers lining the driveway or the milkweed growing on the hill. I’m excited about the milkweed because they attract Monarch Butterflies, who lay their eggs on them.

Today at the bottom of the driveway, I heard a strange “mew, mew” sound on one side of the driveway and also on the other. I paused and looked into the tangle of branches of a dead pine tree. EJ wants to cut down the dead trees, but we don’t yet have a chain saw. It’s on our long “To Buy” list. After several moments of searching, I finally spotted a grayish bird. It was hard to see because it blended in with the dead branches. I took many photos: click, click, click, click, and got a few good ones. I also took a video in case the photos didn’t turn out and so I would have a recording of its call.

When I got back up to the house, I searched through my Birds of Michigan book and also went to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds website. I identified the bird as a Gray Catbird. It’s the first I’ve ever seen. The All About Birds website said, “Once you’ve heard its catty mew you won’t forget it. Follow the sound into thickets and vine tangles and you’ll be rewarded by a somber gray bird with a black cap and bright rusty feathers under the tail. Gray Catbirds are relatives of mockingbirds and thrashers, and they share that group’s vocal abilities, copying the sounds of other species and stringing them together to make their own song.” The Birds of Michigan book added: “A secretive bird that the Chippewa Indians named Bird That Cries With Grief due to its raspy call. The call sounds like the mewing of a house cat, hence the common name. Nests in thick shrubs and quickly flies back into shrubs if approached. If a cowbird introduces an egg into a catbird nest, the catbird will quickly break it, then eject it.” Here is the video I took of the Catbird:

Living Art

I also enjoy sitting in my chair by the window and looking out to see what I can see. I have a decent view of our flower garden as well as a beautiful view of our Enchanted Forest. I’ve always felt that windows are like living paintings hanging on our wall.

I often look out the window and see our little Ruby-Throated Hummingbird sitting on the top of the birdfeeder pole. It seems to be her favorite perch. I would like to photo her in flight, but she sits for long moments on the pole and then suddenly ZIP, she’s gone sipping from the flowers. Even when I try to take a video, she vanishes before I can start recording. Usually I’m inside when I photo her, but I saw her sitting on the pole as I was walking back up the driveway and I was able to also get a couple photos of her.


I looked up information about Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. They are amazing birds. Wikipedia said:

The ruby-throated hummingbird is migratory, spending most of the winter in southern Mexico and Central America,[as far south as extreme western Panama,[the West Indies, and southern Florida. During migration, some birds embark on a nonstop 900-mile journey across the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean from Panama to Gulf Coast…Ruby-throated hummingbirds are solitary. Adults of this species are not social, other than during courtship (which lasts a few minutes); the female also cares for her offspring. Both males and females of any age are aggressive toward other hummingbirds. They may defend territories, such as a feeding territory, attacking and chasing other hummingbirds that enter…Hummingbirds have one of the highest metabolic rates of any animal, with heart rates up to 1260 beats per minute, breathing rate of about 250 breaths per minute even at rest, and oxygen consumption of about 4 ml oxygen/g/hour at rest. During flight, hummingbird oxygen consumption per gram of muscle tissue is approximately 10 times higher than that seen for elite human athletes.

While I sat in my chair, I also saw a little reddish-brown bird pursuing a flying insect, which it caught and ate. The bird flew up into the flower garden and I tried to take a photo of him so I could identify him, but he flew away before I could. Photoing wildlife requires a measure of luck, I’ve found.

Cynefin is a welsh word for a place where a being feels it ought to live. It is where nature around you feels right and welcoming. Our Enchanted Forest is, for me, such a place.

3 Comments on “The “Bird That Cries With Grief”

  1. Pingback: The “Bird That Cries With Grief” - Good Animals

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