Its about time for a picture. But it has been raining for the best part of ten days now, and that doesn’t provide the best picture-taking opportunities. So here is one from just before this long rainy stretch began. There’s no reason for this particular picture; I just like the look of this Grandmother Maple.

Its hard to say for sure, but I think morning is my favorite at this time of year. The sunlight slanting into the trees is especially inviting. As you can see from this shot, the four directions circle in the back yard is wonderfully illuminated, while the rest of the meadow waits its turn for the light of day.

But what I love most is the birdsong. It’s mesmerizing. I’m slowly learning who’s who out there by the sounds they make. Cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, mourning doves, a whole raft of sparrows, bluebirds, robins, crows, woodpeckers, nuthatches, phoebes, tufted titmice and many I have yet to identify.

My all-time favorite bird call comes from the thrush family, though. We have both wood and hermit thrushes in the woods nearby, and their clear, flute-like melodies stand out like the Big Dipper in the night sky.

Identifying birds from their song can be quite a challenge. Try it: pick out one sound from all the rest, remember it, and then go search the internet for an audio clip that matches it. It’s sort of like trying to use a dictionary to find the correct spelling of a word. And in the spring, birdcalls change quite a bit, as mating and nesting songs are added to the variety of sounds any one bird produces.

This is one of those times when it’s quite obvious we need each other. Those thrushes, for example, are difficult to spot. They are shy, for one thing, and by the time they appear in our neighborhood, the trees are already decked out in their lush summer garb, making bird-spotting all but impossible. On the other hand, bluejays are not only raucous singers (though “yelling” is more like it), but they also hang around in plain sight, stealing the duck food every chance they get.

I only know about the thrushes because I sat on a bench near another wood several years ago, joined by someone I hardly knew. We were attending a conference. She was an older, reserved woman, and we sat quietly together, listening. “OH!! Did you hear that??” she said suddenly. “That’s a hermit thrush!” She said it with hushed awe, and I knew were were hearing something very special. It took awhile for me to pick out the sound, but she was patient, and fortunately the little bird hung around, singing its heart out for some time. Once I could isolate its beautiful lilting voice, I knew I would never forget it.

That’s what we do for each other; we sit together, listening, and we help one another sort out the voices of the world. The next time someone shares her wisdom with you, thank her—and remember to pass it along.


One thought on “Birdsong

  1. My problem is that one of the most common birds in my neighborhood is the mockingbird. Its song is actually a combination of songs it learns from other birds. While it is fascinating to listen to the snips of songs, it is maddening to try to seperate them into the parts of the original songs from other birds. Come try it sometime.

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