Witchety witchety witchety. A common yellowthroat stakes out his corner of the yard, which he’s sharing with a catbird. He has to compete with the crazy R2D2 song of the bobolink, a joyful racket in the fields front and back, while the occasional DING of a savannah sparrow, and the chittering of a goldfinch (balancing on a dandelion stem) punctuate the soundtrack. Cheery me cheerio is layered over by one of the many local robins. Tree swallows chatter, a song sparrow calls, and this is only what I can hear over the dishwasher at 7:30 p.m.
(I tried to upload a video so you could hear my bobolinks, but WordPress won’t let me. Click on the links below.)
You should be here in the morning. Deafening is probably too strong a word, but it’s loud enough to wake me. The bobolinks go off around 4:30 followed in short order by the others. It’s an audio spectacle rivaled in my experience only by living in a little cabin at South Branch Pond in Baxter State Park. The birds there are those of the deep woods: veeries, winter wrens, black throated blue warblers, all insistent that I wake up, grab my binoculars, and head outside.
There are other birds here too: my neighbor’s barn swallows come by on strafing runs, while our resident tree swallows dip and swoop after the same bugs. There’s plenty for all as my black fly bites attest. Killdeer–the shrieking birds–screech in the fields, especially when the northern harriers are on the hunt.
Then there are the frogs–it starts in April with the quacking of wood frogs, followed by peepers, chuckling gray tree frogs, trilling American toads and the banjo twang of green frogs.
By late July the birdsong will have dried up like a vernal pool. This heady spring rush is so ephemeral that I feel a little like the birds: possessed. Compelled to take advantage of every second before the season’s over.
So I bird from bed, in the car, by bike. Yesterday I saw a killdeer sitting on eggs on a school roof, a bluebird singing his heart out, a killdeer family with a tiny baby dressed just like them. I heard redstarts and northern parula and watched a couple of bobolink settle into a little grass triangle–all that was left of a vast hayfield turned under by the plow. Habitat lost.
Tonight the gray tree frogs are tuning up in the wetland across the field. Someday I’ll measure the decibels, but let’s just say it’s a frog concert. I wouldn’t be the neighbor who complains, though. After a long, quiet winter, the band is finally playing my song.