The Bird at the End of the Racket

A few days ago, there was what can only be described as a terrific racket coming from somewhere in the back garden. I’m not great at identifying bird calls, but this didn’t even sound like a call, and honestly, I wasn’t even sure it was coming from a bird. It was an awkward sound- not distressed, but screechy and croaky and strange.

I looked around to see if I could spot anything out of the ordinary, but there were no obvious predators to trigger anyone’s alarm call; sparrows and doves were happily feeding below the feeder in the back corner, and chipmunks were scurrying back and forth on the ground.

But the noise kept sounding.

I looked to the bushes and the shorter trees. A couple of robins were going back and forth from their nest in the Japanese maple, gathering worms to feed their newly-hatched babies; a cardinal couple was perched on the fence feeding seed to each other.

The noise came again and again, growing grating.

Then I started climbing on things (a lawn chair, the vegetable garden boxes, the stone sitting wall) so I could see higher into the branches of a few of the taller trees…and that’s when I noticed a grackle flying in and out of the dominant tree nearby- a tall Dawn Redwood. Even following the adult grackle’s path, I had a hard time finding the fledgling. It was high up and obscured by so many branches. My long lens helped me see better than my eyes could, and eventually I was able to match the sound with the beak, and capture a photo.

Here’s our grackle teenager, the bird at the other end of the racket: ugly-cute and awkward; hungry; determined to sing a call he’s only half-learned as loud as he can into the world.

How could I be annoyed at his racket anymore, even as it continued the rest of the afternoon? I’ve been him before.

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