Rare Catbird Sighting
I’ve never been much of a bird watcher. Birds are great and all, but I never put the effort into learning them beyond the common robin or chickadee.
It’s difficult; they’re small, far away, and move quickly. But these days I’m putting more effort into noticing the birds around me, and with the help of my guidebook even managed to identify a beautiful Northern Flicker sitting on the deck rail.
So it was with some excitement that I heard an unusual birdcall the other day. I was walking down our long driveway to the mailbox when the clear, persistent call came from the woods along the drive.
I started scanning the trees.
It sounded a little like a cat, and I’ve heard there are birds whose calls resemble that of a cat. Also, some birds are very good mimics.
This was definitely a bold bird. Most would have flown off by now, scared by my presence. But maybe it was trying to protect a nest. Being spring, many birds would be laying eggs right now. I kept scanning back and forth through the trees, but couldn’t see it anywhere. Then I lowered my gaze and there on the branch of an oak tree about 15’ up perched ... a cat.
You saw that coming, didn’t you?
More precisely, it was a kitten, black and distressed, clearly stuck. I walked back towards the trunk of the tree making various “come hither kitty” sounds, hoping it would backtrack and climb back down the trunk.
No doubt there are a few firefighters out there who could have told me this technique doesn’t work. As I walked towards the tree trunk the kitten walked out the branch towards me, meowing, eyes wide. With each step the branch dipped lower under her weight. This wasn’t going to work. At this point, she just needed to jump. Fifteen feet isn’t so much to a cat. She would survive, but of course she didn’t know that. Then she slipped, caught herself, and hung on by one paw, like some tiny action hero with huge eyes. But there’s a reason we all say, “that could never happen” to those action movie saves. Did she pull herself up by sheer will and tiny muscles? No. She fell.
She picked herself up out of the leaves, clearly startled but ok. Well, she was safe now and I could go on my way. I fetched the mail from the box and set a brisk pace back to the house, studiously ignoring everything around me but the junk mail and bills. I certainly was not going to look back. However, when almost home I stole a quick glance behind me. There she was, trotting along a few yards back.
Anybody want a cat?
The next day there were TWO of them.