I sat back on my haunches, twisting my shoulders this way and that, trying to ease the strain of pulling weeds for hours on end. I had neglected the weeding last year; with the result of not only lots of weeds but lovely Butterfly Weed seedlings; a few tiny Russian sage plants; Monarda that had wandered from the other end of the flower bed and a weensie 2-leafed sprout of a red Lace-leaf Maple. I leaned back on my hands listening to the birds around me; sweat tickling my ear.
I looked up as a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks kir-ed overhead; floating in lazy spirals. The backyard House Wren belted out his song; making sure it was very clear where his territory lay. Not to be out-done, a Great-crested Flycatcher called from an oak at the top of the property. I searched high in the trees for the Flycatcher, but didn’t see him. From the thicketed forest, a Pewee moaned his lament and a Phoebe croaked from the wire. The Great-crested called again. I staggered to my feet, cursing my tingling leg and stumbled up the hill to the pile of mulch. As I shoveled the fragrant wood into my plastic tub, the Great-crested Flycatcher sang close by. I called back to him, WeeEEEP! Leaning the snow shovel against the mulch pile, I grasped the handles of the tub and jerked it up only to come face-to-face with the yellow-bellied bird. He eyed me, then the mulch, me again. I inched past him. As soon as I cleared the trees, he hopped down to gobble up the beetles scurrying back under cover in the mulch.
He and I hung out side-by-side for the rest of the afternoon. I shoveled mulch, he ate the beetles while I tossed, patted, and smoothed my load. He patiently waited for me to come back uphill for another tub-full, to fling back the plastic tarp and reveal the smorgasbord.