I had to visit the woods down the street from my house twice before I figured out why the song birds had fallen silent.
Usually the cardinal is filling the place with his tuneful whistle, bright and loud enough to be heard no matter where I am. And robins announce their territories, one after the other as I pass them, less lyrical than the cardinals, but no less insistent. The red winged black birds not only sound out their squashed whistle, they are not above dive bombing me for extra emphasis. I know that their broods have hatched and fledged and left the nest, but their total silence baffled me.
On my first walk of the week, I did hear a mewling sort of call and looking up saw a brown bird perched on a high branch. I have since identified it as a catbird. I would have preferred to call it a mockingbird, a close relation, but the mockingbird that usually sings its rhapsodies here in the summer has not returned this year. If it had, I would know. I love the sound and I can hear it even in my sleep.
The louder and more puzzling cry came from high up and echoed across the woods. It was a long initial scream and then a drop or slur downward for a shorter sound.
As I began my homeward stretch on my second walk, I saw a red tailed hawk swoop to land in the tallest tree beside the trail. I had my answer. This hawk has taken up residence and the song birds have wisely fallen silent.
To hear the cry : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAXnk3w39Ow