Monday, April 5, 2010

Listening to Spring

A long, wide path at Audubon’s Buttercup Farm Sanctuary in Dutchess County, New York, abuts Wappinger Creek.  It’s a paradise for birds, yet not long ago, when snow and ice still reigned, few birds could be found.

With the arrival of warmer weather, that’s all changed.  The snow has disappeared to reveal the wreckage left by winter, the creek is running full-bore, and bird sounds are everywhere.

Despite the still bare trees, the birds are more easily heard than seen.  Try as I might to look where my ears guide me, I often can't find those devilish little cheeping things I hear so clearly straight above me, or flitting in the bramble, or flying low and landing in clumps of marsh grass.

The Canada geese and mallards are easier to spot.  The geese sound their arrival with insistent honking.  The mallards, which seem always to hear me before I see them, make a great racket, too, propelling themselves upward amid a torrent of quacks.

Back in the trees, a loud drumming erupts:  the sound of a woodpecker, powerful enough to be a pileated, but not visible, so who knows?  Red-winged blackbirds, however, are all around me.  The cacophony of harsh trilling as they gather in the trees is a first sure sign of spring.

So many different bird sounds:  high cheeps boomerang across the trees; a pair of wood ducks whistle as they take to the air; an insistent chip, chip, chip with a whistling edge to it—a sound I’ve heard often, but the owner of which I still don’t know; the low coo of mourning doves; the occasional squawk of a blue jay.

Overhead, a sudden “screee,” and there’s a red-tailed hawk, flaunting its tail before the sun.  Juncos trill and sparrows chip and whistle as they flit out of the bramble to peck on the path.  A warble, a flash of blue, and a bluebird lights on a branch.

Amidst all of this, as if responding to a conductor's baton, the marsh breaks out in a chorus of underwater clucking and high sweet peeps.  The wood frogs and spring peepers are in full throat—another sure sign of spring.


  1. I feel like I'm there, and it seems like such a lovely place to be.

    Nice photos, too!

  2. Spring has sprung and what nicer way to show it than with your beautiful photographs? The links with the bird call recordings put us right on the spot, too.

    And to think in only another month I will tread the trail in person. Can barely wait.....

  3. Wonderful photographs, as usual! Yes, the sounds of the birds and the running creek surely mean spring is here. (Although I am reluctant to pack away the sweaters just yet. . . )

    Enjoy your visit cybersr!

  4. So, cybersr, do you think that chip, chip, ship sound might be a song sparrow? Just occurred to me.

    CA: I think perhaps the wood frogs are singing the bass line to If I Were a Rich Man. And do I see perchance your daughter has chimed in on the Fiddler post? Welcome aboard, Kaye!

    WOS: Know what you mean. I keep pulling out the flannel shirt and find it hard not to go for the fleece . . . until I get outside, that is!

    May it continue . . .

  5. I wonder if it is that fine white-throated sparrow you photographed. Unfortunately, "chip, chip, chip" is not quite enough to make a positive song identification.

  6. P.S. I like how you change the image in your blog title regularly. They are always good.

  7. So this is where you have been spending your time. It looks like you are surrounded by some wonderful nature, and sharpening up your listening skills with all the sounds of the birds and creatures.
    Lovely photographs. I would be searching for feathers to draw. I used to live near the marshes and hear the frogs or toads at night, sometimes find them at our back door, trying to get in!

  8. Spring is here.It is brilliant.Flowers, blossom and waking in early light to the down chorus.Going out to join in is also very joyous though I haven't yet found the energy.I noted 72 different birds during last week in Norfolk but I find I can only really get to know a few by their individual songs after seeing them actually singing. I think it takes a lot more early rising and years of dedication to get to know many.So that said, enjoy whoever it is and always remember, that they have their own names for themselves anyway......


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