Birds of Summer

Saw a bird hopping around on the grass on my way to the bus stop Tuesday morning that I couldn’t identify (nothing new there, I still can’t identify most birds) — gray and brown tail feathers in alternating patterns, sort of robin-sized, and sporting a prominent bright red spot on the nape of its neck. I e-mailed Scott, who’s a birdwatcher, and he immediately tagged it as a yellow-shafted northern flicker — “common in these parts, but not in urban areas usually,” he said.

Several weekends back we were taking a walk with the dog behind Allen Elementary and a pair of low-flying bluish-black birds kept meticulously dive-bombing the grass. I was thinking that they might be purple martins, but Scott told me that those are rare — more likely a couple of swallows.

I’ve heard a lot of unusual bird song this summer, but actual sightings of unusual birds have been rare. Mostly the usual assortment of robins, starlings, and sparrows, with an occasional cardinal thrown in. I misidentified a cardinal sitting on a shrub branch as a tanager and got a chuckle from Scott one day a few weeks back when we were walking across campus.