Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Birdsong at Night

I'm sitting in our cabin here in Maine, listening to birdsong. That's not unusual, except that it's fully dark, almost 9 PM, and I'm sipping a nice Cabernet, not my morning cup of coffee.

I love wild birds. I love feeding them, watching them, identifying them, and listening to them. My daughters once shared my delight and awe, but now they are teenagers and not much delights or awes them any longer. It's quite sad. But I remain hopeful that once they get past this stage (which has its own delights, I assure you), they'll return to those things that once bright them joy.

The bird I hear now is a hermit thrush. I've been enjoying listening to them for years here in Maine. I never hear them down South. They have a very unique and lovely song; it's intricate, whereas some birdsongs are quite simple. And there's a unique whirring aspect to parts of it.

I first learned about hermit thrushes a few years ago when the girls and I visited Birdsacre and the Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary, a wonderful house museum and bird sanctuary in Ellsworth, Maine. There we learned about the life and vocation of Cordelia J. Stanwood, a 19th century pioneer ornithologist and photographer whose passion was birds. We enjoyed out tour of the house and the girls got to help the volunteer feed the birds that live there. Our favorites were the sawwhet owls.

As a memento, I purchase a biography of Cordelia, written by Chandler S. Richmond and titled Beyond the Spring. Frankly, I did not hold out much hope for a well-written book. So I was pleasantly surprised at the engaging style of Richmond's prose. And what a story, too! More to the point of this post, however, is her deep admiration for the hermit thrush. She wrote:

“When the thrush speaks to me, it seems as if the rags and tatters that enshroud my soul fall away and leave it naked. Then I must be simple and true or I cannot feel the message the small voice brings to me. When the thrush sings, I desire to live in a small, scrupulously neat camp, open to the sun and the wind and the voices of the birds. I would like to spend eternity thus, listening to the song of the thrush.”

My response to the thrush's song isn't quite as strong, but I do love it. Here's a link to the hermit thrush page at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds website. You can see photos of this bird and, more importantly, listen to recordings of its song. And here's a link to the hermit thrush page on the Audubon website. Excellent recordings of its song are down lower on the page. Prepare to be charmed. And the next time you hear a bird singing at night, think of the hermit thrush.

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1 comment:

  1. That sounds delightful. I don't think we have hermit thrushes in Scotland. The birds I am most likely to hear at night are seagulls! Hope you're having a great summer escape.


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