Earth Journal:

All the Usual Suspects Are Singing Spring

by M.L. Faunce

Say what you will about this time of year, the birds in my yard sing it out even more noisily. Stimulated by longer days and nature's urging, these fine-feathered friends are caught up in motion (and commotion) that's infectious.

Have you noticed?

On a recent mild, brilliant day, the birds in my yard were simply melodious. And the following morning, in the damp, dense fog, they were positively raucous. Nature's creatures don't discriminate when it comes to greeting the day. Rain or shine, their inner clock says the fun is just beginning.

My sister, who lives far to our south, mentioned to me that the birds at her rural home are even singing in the dark. "They're so loud this time of year," she exclaimed, adding that the hybrid magnolias and daffodils are already in bloom, as if that explained the noise.

At least the usual suspects in my yard wait until daybreak to begin their symphony.

For an overture, the downy woodpecker plays a drum roll of rapid fire drilling on trees or house siding, even down-spouts. The tufted titmouse follows, singing peter, peter, peter. Carolina and house wrens, prize chatterboxes, chime right in like a tea kettle, making us thirsty for our morning cuppa. The sing-song dee dee of the chickadee soothes the senses, until the jay bursts in calling its own name, of course, over and over. For an adagio, the female cardinal slows the pace, with her soft cheer, cheer, cheer. For the finale, the crow croons caw caw.

Not to be outdone, the mocking bird mimics them all, perfectly in tune.

The birds in my backyard are as familiar as friends. I can't say for sure that the same birds, year after year, visit my feeders, perch in my trees and sing their sweet songs. But the composite of this little wild fiefdom seems constant. Like my human neighbors, they have chosen this spot tucked in behind the Bay's rich wetlands for their home. For how long, anyone can guess.

Spring is in the air, and lengthening days bring hormonal changes to the avian species - to all of nature, for that matter. So if you're wondering what all the racket is about outside your window, it's just the usual suspects getting ready for spring.

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VolumeVI Number 7
February 19-25, 1997
New Bay Times

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