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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Gardener's Diary Archive: Catbird, seat nearby. Rain, endless, April 19, 2015.

I think we have had rain for a week now; the days- overcast and dark- seem to run together. Since last night we have had a very steady rainfall. The weatherman on Channel 9 last night was predicting a couple of inches. As I see water standing in places in the yard I have not seen water standing before, I think he may be right.

Standing water and red Piedmont clay are rarely a happy combination; the top little bit of the clay soaks in as much as it can and turns soupy and generally disagreeable to be out and about in. The grass- already running riot- is going to be a hot mess to mow, as my friend Brian would say.

But I am not complaining. A week ago I was laid low by pollen, so thick about that breezes pushed it into berms and dunes all over the yard, and into my eyes and nose. Surely this mini-monsoon will drown most of it. Then we'll just have the revivified late-bloomers to deal with.

So I've been indoors, mostly. The temperatures have been clement, so on a day like this I have been able to work at my desk with the windows open, listening to the rain fall. The sonic effect is worthy of a relaxation CD.

During a lull this afternoon I ventured out to run my dandelion picket lines. Only 29 captured today. They will cut loose at the first sunshine, now predicted for Tuesday. While I was out, wringing their little yellow necks, I heard a new bird call, loud and shrill, and it finally penetrated my attention. I realized I have heard it for several days running; a little research revealed it is the call of the gray catbird, mimicking a woman shouting, "Heeeere, kittykittykittykittykitty...Heeeere, kittykittykittykittykitty..."

It's a good fit for the neighborhood, as Roger Tory Peterson says, in A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies (1st.ed, 1st printing, 1980, paperback; yes, I will sell it out from under myself), says the are partial to undergrowth, brush, thorn, scrub and suburban gardens. Bit of a flirt, too: Peterson adds, "Flips tail jauntily." We're a bit west of the boundary of its breeding and year-round ranges, on the breeding side, but as I see reports that ranges are moving north as things warm, we may be new turf for them. Now I know what to in the coming months. The gray catbird is the the twentieth species I've noted on this little half-acre since last fall.

We have a lot of Bewick's wrens in the yard most days. They like gardens, underbrush and thickets, all of which we have around us; they also like nesting boxes, and our neighbor, Mr. Doug, has a number of those across the way. They are fairly quiet little birds; we had a set last fall who liked to hang out in the woodpile and let meals crawl out of the woodwork without having to go out. The robins have been busy hauling off nesting materials from the compost piles in the back yard; pine straw is popular for inner padding.

One can only work at the computer so much in a day, so I've been working my way into Elizabeth Lawrence's classic, The Southern Garden. I have the 1990 trade paperback; I was finally able to get it yesterday when eight crates of books I called out from storage were delivered. I'll be a typing fool the next few weeks, getting them all photographed and written up for Henry Bemis Books' summer catalogue (if you'd like the current spring issue, just hop next door to Henry's website and fill out the order form; I'll be pleased to email you one). Our weather this week- indeed, this year- is just as she described in 1942:
In the Middle South the difficulty is not that it is too hot or too cold, or too wet or too dry, but that the changes from one extreme to the other are so frequent and so sudden. In summer we cannot depend, as England, on steady moisture, nor, as in our Southwest, on continued drought. Instead, weeks when no rain falls are followed by weeks when it rains every day...

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