We were sitting out on the back patio (this is an activity that happens fairly often) one day this past week when we heard something new: a bird call that we had not heard before.
Yes, we know our birds; sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, hummingbirds, finches, flickers, mockingbirds, and especially the jays -- but this call was very different, loud and shrill, and coming from several directions! More than one strange visitor!
We grabbed our birding binoculars and circled the pool, watching a pair of birds zooming through the sky at high speed, calling out their panicky-sounding cry. One of them plummeted into our neighbor's sycamore, and we carefully approached, hoping for a glimpse of the new bird. I snapped a shot up into the branches, hoping to be able to see in an enlarged photo what we had been hearing.
Before we put the camera away, though, we did spot the bird in the tree. It was a gray cockatiel.
I sincerely hope that those birds found their way home. We haven't heard them since that evening, so maybe they aren't lost any more.
Either that or they're touring the almond and apple orchards, stuffing themselves on nuts and fruit.
If, when cooler weather hits, we spot a cockatiel the size of a turkey, we'll know he found the vineyards and the orchards for sure.