"Hoping for Perfect

Gray Catbird

        Sometimes we hope that the weather will change magically, and our Audubon Field Trip day will be perfect. Saturday was like that. Our Field Trip group met at the East Canyon Park in Cedar City on our way to Cedar Breaks and Panguitch Reservoir. Cedar Canyon was shrouded by gray clouds. Hoping for that perfect day, we headed ‘up canyon’ anyway.

        The roads were clear and snow was still on much of the ground. The Aspen trees were leafing out and flowers were trying to make an appearance. Ahhhh, the sun poked its head through the clouds, and we could hear birds singing. Birdlife had migrated into the area in spite of the weather! What a perfect sight to see the red of Cedar Breaks dotted with patches of white snow. We walked through the plowed campgrounds, where nobody was camping. We stopped at the lookout points, then drove to the lower elevation of Panguitch Reservoir, and walked the riparian area next to the road. Our leader said we might find a Gray Catbird, and there it was. This was a ‘lifer’ (first one seen) for most of us as Gray Catbirds stay far north in Utah.

        The Catbird stayed right there on a willow branch and sang his song so all of us could see him. I love it when birds cooperate like that. Catbirds are slate gray, with a darker head and tail. If you are lucky, you may see a rufous-brown under the tail. Male catbirds are territorial during spring and summer, singing from prominent perches and chasing away intruders of all species. Catbirds seldom fly across open areas. They prefer to stay in tangles of vegetation. You could say that Catbirds are long-winded, for they easily sing songs lasting up to ten minutes. The male uses a softer version of song when near the nest and then waits for the female to sing the quiet song back to him.

        Seeing a rare bird like this in southern Utah made it a perfect day. It was worth the tense trip we made coming back down the mountain with snow and wind whipping over the road. In spite of the weather, I plan to go back again and again really soon.   The Gray Catbird was drawn by Marilyn Davis.  If you have questions about birds or Red Cliffs Audubon activities call 435 673-0996.

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