This is the first in a series of posts I will be doing about the birds of Long Island, or at least the ones I see in my neighborhood. I am not a big-time bird watcher, but in the last several years I have taken an interest in trying to identify the birds I see and trying to learn a little bit about them.
The bird pictured above is the Northern Mockingbird, which is one my personal favorites. I learned up and close and personal some years ago one of the quirky characteristics of the Northern Mockingbird. When my son was about a year and a half or so, there were a couple of nights where he would have a major crying fit. It was impossible to get to sleep while he was screaming (his room was next to our bedroom at the time) and my efforts to get him to stop were not working. So, I bundled him up and put him in the stroller for a late night walk through the neighborhood, which served to calm him down and put him to sleep.
The streets where I live are very quiet around 2 a.m. and as expected, there is very little traffic. Thus it was that while I was pushing my son's stroller around at such a late hour, I was surprised to hear the sound of a bird singing. I was intrigued, because I had never heard a bird call during the night. Because there were no other sounds to interfere with my listening, I was able to get closer and closer to the sound of the bird's call until I found myself underneath a small tree that stood on the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the curb. I whistled my imitation of the bird's calls as best as I could, and it seemed as if the bird was whistling back to me in response. Because it was dark though, I was unable to see the bird and did not know what species it was.
A couple of years later, I bought a field guide to North American birds and read the descriptions of the different birds I recognized seeing in my neighborhood. When I read the description of the Northern Mockingbird, it mentioned that this species of bird is known for being one of the few birds that issues its mating calls during nocturnal hours as well as during the daytime. "Aha!" I exclaimed, "that was the bird I heard that night!"