Monday, April 25, 2016

Eastern Towhee

I saw an Eastern Towhee today on the banks of a pretty little creek. A phoebe pair was there, too, worried about their nest made of moss above me, squeezed into a joist support on the bottom of a covered wooden bridge. I sat under the bridge in the sand bank in this little curve of the creek, I'm sure cramping the style of several couples who walked over the bridge and thought the same as I did: I should go down to the water, that looks pretty on this spring day.

They were right, but I had it first. I claimed it as mine and I wasn't giving it up for anyone's engagement photos or barbecued wings in styrofoam for lunch. I was going to sit and watch the birds and sift through the sand for tiny rocks to toss into the water, each creating tiny ripples in the surface of the water like they do.

Like you do. Like I do. Like we all do. We trouble the waters and then everything has to sift again to hold the new.

I saw an Eastern Towhee but he wasn't singing his song, his drink-your-tea! song. It was more like DRINK TEA. More emphatic than I remember learning this weekend, where I saw an Eastern Towhee for the first time.

This was the second Eastern Towhee. Sitting in the sand and smiling at the birds wondering at how I could make it 41 years and this is the second Eastern Towhee in as many days and none before.

How have I missed them?


I watched the Eastern Towhee cross over the water, flashing its rufous and white, and come towards me, landing on a branch nearby and then on the bank. Not close enough to touch but close enough to connect. It flew on, calling out in his insistent voice. DRINK TEA.

I could have sat there all day sifting the sand and listening to the birds and the occasional fish splash. Eventually, though, two moms and three very small children showed up and went down to the water to throw rocks, and those poor phoebes wanted desperately to get to their nest. I needed to pick up my kids at school and continue with my day, which felt oddly on pause under that bridge.

I slipped a tiny chip of a rock in my back pocket to help me remember, and then I walked across the covered bridge to the car, checking off the landmarks, the smells of old wood and new, the carved initials, the girl with the pink shoes and her boyfriend with the camera tripod. More cars arrived in the parking lot and I was glad I'd shown up when I did because it was suddenly filled with people, not towhees.

I think this could be a powerful summer, I decided as I looked out the window, biting down on my St. Benedict medal. Maybe I'll see another Eastern Towhee. Maybe I'll sit on a lot of sandy banks and sift. Maybe I'll drink tea.

This could be my summer.

It might be my turn, after all.


  1. Saw my first towhee of the season on Friday. It was singing what I think you mean by drink-tea, which is to-whee! It flew right up to me. So gorgeous. It took me til the the turnaround point of my walk, when I heard one singing drink-your-tea, that I even remembered that they sang that song too, I was so utterly taken in by this guy.

  2. Ok, I'm off to google a towhee.