Last week I heard a mockingbird singing in the wee hours for the first time this year. I’ve been seeing them sitting in the overgrown apple tree in my backyard (I think they’re year-round residents in the Bay), but I hadn’t yet been awakened by their midnight battle arias.
I love the songs of mockingbirds although I know they’re just the yells of horny males. They’re endlessly entertaining; I try to figure out what they’re mimicking. Sometimes I whistle a tune to them (I’ve been trying to teach them Sail Away Ladies since forever). Once, back in the first days of the now ever-present cell phone, I heard one singing the then-standard ringtone.
When I was young (just as this sixth mass extinction began in earnest) mockingbirds lived up and down our street, and their repertoires included stanzas from all the seemingly thousands of songbirds that nested in the eaves and trees and foundation plantings of suburbia. Sadly, these days the mockingbirds mostly sing songs of squirrels, crows, sparrows, and noises I can’t identify. But they still make me happy to hear them doing musical battle in the middle of the night.