The song without the snark

I found a new bird to love tonight.

I fell in love with mockingbirds when I lived in Connecticut’s Tobacco Valley. They came back every year, and there was always one who trilled and sang and chuckled atop my neighbor’s TV antenna.

He wasn’t a gorgeous bird; his coat was a kind of dull gray. He was fairly large. I could spot him, when he was flying but not singing, by the white bars across his wings. When he sang, it was always from the highest point he could find, whether it was the top of a pine tree, a chimney, or a TV antenna.

His magic was his voice. And his sense of humor.


Not only was he a virtuoso, he was a showoff. Every now and again, he’d flip himself around in the air, as though he just couldn’t contain his admiration of his own talents. I couldn’t blame him. And he was a tease. He imitated cats, he imitated cell phones. He was the most entertaining bird I’d ever seen, or heard.

In Woodstock, I heard no mockingbirds. I missed them. When we moved out to farmland in Delaware County, I thought maybe I’d hear them again. But after two years, I think it will not happen.

This evening, as I walked back to the house, I heard a sound that stopped me in my tracks. Somewhere in a tree nearby, a bird was going through a massive catalog of songs, singing its heart out. I think I heard what joy sounds like.

It sounded like a mockingbird, without the snark.

I looked, and finally spied him.

He wasn’t on the highest branch. He sat about halfway up an old maple tree. He was small and brown, with tiny brown stripes on his buff-colored chest. Between songs, he shook out his feathers until he resembled a puffball, then resumed his song without any attempt to restore some order to his now rather punk appearance. It was darned entertaining. I sat under that tree and listened until he was done.

I ran inside and looked for his name. He is a skylark. And despite his rather disheveled appearance, he is a lovely, lovely bird. He made me inordinately happy.

I do not remember hearing him the past two summers. It feels like a little miracle that he’s here this year.


Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.

There are 2 comments

  1. suzette green

    Susan, thanks for listening. Birds are disappearing at an alarming rate. Keep up the interest!

  2. Roger Peterson

    Yeah, I’m from there too, where you had to go down to the long meadows by there river and the railroad tracks to go cat fishing, rafting and swimming in dirty holes.
    Yes, the variety of birds are gone from our parcel in Ulster County as well and would have thunk it better in a farther county like yours?
    Only thing left to treasure on the place are the red-squirrels feasting on black maple tree’s fruit. And some chipmunks, a hawk. Even the ground hogs have disappeared, and only see a bat about once every three months.
    Plenty of shrews, though, and that’s just the four-legged kind.

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