GREENE CO., MO. — Movement in the redbud outside my window caught my eye. It was a titmouse. Dry brown pods hung thickly in the tree. The little bird pulled up a pod and peeled back the papery covering. Removing a single round seed, it hopped to another perch to hammer open the morsel. The bird’s feathers were quite worn, and some appeared to be missing.
A few moments later, I saw a small bird on a dead branch 20 feet from the window. Female goldfinch, said my brain. Whoa, whoa, whoa, said my eyes. Yellow-throated Vireo! It sat still for few seconds and then went on its way.
Meanwhile, a female Summer Tanager zipped through the yard, flycatching. She was a rich golden color, and, like the vireo, her plumage was fresh and crisp.
Not so for the Chipping Sparrows. They hopped along the ground, nibbling weed seeds. The adults were faded and worn, their facial patterns nearly obscured. Juveniles wore their brown streaks.
And a robin hopped across the parched ground, bill held open in the heat. The speckled feathers of its youth still clung to its adult-sized body. Its back was scaly, its face strongly patterned, and its breast a colorful blend of orange, white, and gray.
September has come.