At four o’clock every morning for the past week, I have been reminded that it is indeed summer. That’s when the mockingbird begins singing. He starts around four, and he doesn’t finish his repertory until the sun starts getting hotter around 8 a.m.
He perches on top of a parking lot light and sings and sings and sings. Somewhere in the distance is another mockingbird, so they engage in this duel to establish their territory. Sometimes he’ll tune up again in the evening, but usually it’s a morning routine.
The mockingbird is a very inventive musician and does mash-ups of other birds’ songs, getting faster as he goes, and sometimes rearranging the sequence. I think of him as the Glee chorister of the animal kingdom. I wouldn’t mind the early morning chorale if I could just sleep through it, or at least roll over and go back to sleep.
Mockingbirds remind me of where I grew up in Tennessee–they are the state bird. As a child and a teenager I could sleep through a bomb going off, so the pre-dawn concerts didn’t bother me. My dad was known to chase a noisy bird away–see my archives for the story of the whippoorwill. I learned the lesson, however, that birds are crafty, and will wait until you are back in bed to start up their song again.
So I am waiting for the height of summer, when the mockingbird will have proved his manhood to his mate and will quiet down again except for running trills just before dark. I like the way he flicks his wings and tail to show the patches of white, then covers them again modestly. I agree with Atticus Finch that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, “because “they don’t do one thing for us but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us”.
Even if they are singing long before I want to get up!