Bottle Brush Tree
About three weeks ago I was sitting in my lanai enjoying my God time and breakfast. I was so aware of the presence of God through His creation. Squirrels were scampering in the trees and enjoying breakfast at their feeders. Birds were calling out to their mates or calling out for prospective mates and swooping in to the feeders on the back fence of the garden. The trees and plants were budding out and everything had that lush look about it. The bare threads of winter were fast being replaced.
I was very familiar with many of the birds, those I could see and those I could hear. The sweet Titmice and many Sparrows jostled for spots on the feeders until the Cardinal appeared and claimed his place as “numero uno” in the pecking order! Some Bluebirds and Blue Jays flew across the garden creating magnificent flashes of blue. Occasionally a Blue Jay would drop onto the back fence, wait for the other birds to finish and leave, before hopping down to pick a seed or two, bang it open on the fence top, and then fly off.
Mocking Birds were aggressively buzzing the back yard and each other. I saw quite a bit of spring rivalry as one male chased another away from his prospective mate. Then he began courting the female but she was playing hard-to-get. And in between whiles, the first Humming Birds were starting to visit their feeders on a more regular basis.
High up in the trees, Crows would sit, each one claiming the pinnacle of a pine tree as his particular castle, and then would begin a cacophony of sound as they started their orchestral system of communication. Joining them from time to time could be heard the piercing shrieks of the Red Shouldered Hawk as he flew from tree to tree crying out for a mate to join him. From somewhere deep inside the small pinewood out back I could here the drilling of a Woodpecker on a tree trunk. And then a small, chunky House Wren decided to join my garden group and sang out his rich morning song; such a loud voice for such a small bird.
Then suddenly, from quite close by, I heard an unusual, never-before-heard, loud dry chatter. I looked up and around. The noise had seemed to come from my Bottle Brush tree which now stands about twelve to fifteen foot high. It was aflame with spring blooms and rich with new spring growth foliage. Then I heard the chatter again and caught a glimpse of something large and yellowish. The bird was definitely as big as a mature Cardinal but seemed slimmer, more elongated. But he was operating deep inside the tree and I could only catch occasional glimpses of flashing gold movement.
The next day, amid the same lively performance from all the usual birds, I again heard the loud dry chatter. This time I was prepared with binoculars close at hand, but my new visitor was more elusive than the day before. He seemed to bury himself even deeper into the tree and only at the last moment, as he lifted up in flight to leave, did I catch a quick sighting, a magnificent flash of rich deep gold as he flew up and away. This was way too tantalizing. I searched through my Kenn Kaufman bird book and thought perhaps it might be a female Summer Tanager.
The next day I heard the now familiar chatter and, after some minutes scrutinizing the tree, I got my first real clear sighting. He had come out on a branch on my side of the tree. This placed him in plain sight and also put him in the slightly shadowed part of the tree which meant there was no sun shining directly on him. And there he was in all his glory. From just under the beak area he was a rich golden reddish orange that went all the way down under his belly getting slightly paler in shade as it disappeared between his legs and back towards his under tail. His whole face and continuing over the crown of his head, down his back to his upper tail was black, while his wings had a touch of light gold at the shoulders but were black with distinct white markings.
He was a beauty, about 8-9 inches long. I began frantically flipping pages in the Kaufman. Triumphantly I came across a page full of Orioles, and there was my visitor. And visitor he was; a rarely-seen-in-the-south Baltimore Oriole. The picture was a perfect match and the description of his call note was exactly what I had been hearing – a dry chatter. I was so thrilled to have identified him, and so happy that he had chosen my Bottle Brush as his breakfast spot.
He came every day for about two and a half weeks and my husband was able to get some good photos of him. Then, just as suddenly as he appeared, he seems to have disappeared. Today is the fourth day that I have not heard his chatter nor seen his regal flash of gold. Even as I feel somewhat sad, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to make his acquaintance. But, in the meantime, as though in recompense, I have been treated to another new sighting. But that’s fodder for another blog.