Spring: Sprung

Finally: it’s beginning to look (and sound) a lot like SPRING!

Bloodroot always shows up on the south-facing bank of the road down into our valley before we see it on the banks of the “New Road.” We spotted it just yesterday in this cold sink of a holler.

The Louisiana Waterthrush have returned–a not so common bird that IS so common along Goose Creek and Nameless Creeks. We must have habitat that matches exactly the spring and summer accommodations they are looking for. We almost NEVER see them but hear their calls.

We might have seven breeding pair in our little bowl. By the first of June I can hear slight differences in the calls of one male versus his rival. Paying attention to this kind of nuance of detail is to enrich the relationship of man to beast. We don’t just have Louisiana Waterthrush. We have these unique individual couples!

Another early resident is the Chestnut-sided Warbler, whose call I learned phonetically as “please ta meetcha missus beecha.” Maybe. There are some characteristic and universal pieces to the overall male song, but great liberties are taken on the theme, again, to individualize birds in their overlapping ranges, and for the pleasure of human ears.

And even though my site stats show that more often than not, links I add don’t get clicked, here’s one anyways. You can listen to a track of Chestnutsided song. Pay attention to the differences–either in consecutive calls from one male or calls from several distinctive males, I don’t know. The song is the same, but different.

So listen deep this spring. Write out bird song as musical  notes; give the song quality a few adjectives as you listen; or graph it out as dots and dashes rising, falling short or long. This focuses attention-awareness is ways that the simple hearing of a bird vocalization will not.

And when next spring comes, you’ll be glad to welcome back your avifauna, even though you’ll rarely see them at all.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I’m keeping that bird song site. I am so poor at sighting birds but I would love to know whoI’m hearing!