For years, The Sound of Music was my favorite movie. The scenery, the singing and that jaw dropping flyover of the Austrian Alps as the movie opens still gives me goose bumps. In all of that grandeur, a small bird intones a few notes that somehow sets the stage for Julie Andrews to come whirling into view.
Lately the Bent Twig Trail is also alive with the sound of music. After the recent rains, the woods are lush, dripping, and as emerald green as a temperate rainforest. The songs and call notes of birds echo from the treetops and forest understory, as mated pairs communicate, males defend their territory, and others sing love songs to attract a mate. This week’s soundtrack included several songs and calls from Black-throated Blue Warblers and Summer Tanagers singing from the tree tops. Ovenbirds, Kentucky Warblers, Wood Thrush, Carolina Wrens, Titmouse, Blue Gray- Gnat Catchers and others performed from the mid canopy and understory.
For me, the song of the Wood Thrush represents the underlying theme for the eastern deciduous forest, during the late spring, and throughout summer. Its flute-like call is hauntingly lovely, and even contemplative.
Music appreciation is often enhanced when we make the effort to learn about the music we are hearing. Some music and melodies go straight to our hearts, but sometimes it touches us only as we understand the instruments, the performers and their stories. Over twenty years ago my parents gave me one of my most treasured birthday gifts, a collection of cassette tapes called Birding by Ear: Eastern/Central Peterson Field Guides. Listening to those recordings of identified bird songs and calls enables me to tune into this feathered orchestra, so that upon hearing a particular bird I can often picture it in my mind’s eye, even if I can’t see it. This enhances my feeling of companionship when I’m outside, and adds a layer of richness to my life. I might be walking through a parking lot and stop in my tracks upon hearing the distinctive “chick-burr” call notes from a Scarlet Tanager.
If I look up in the tree tops, the picture in my mind may manifest, and I’m rewarded with a view of a vermilion bird with black wings. I might even get to hear him sing; a song that has been described as sounding like a robin with a sore throat.
Today it is easier than ever to learn and appreciate birds even if you don’t own binoculars. There are wonderful websites including All about Birds, from Cornell at https://www.allaboutbirds.org, Ebird.org and WhatBird.com. You can even download birding apps such as IBird, and Merlin Bird ID for your phone. Locally, the Beckham Bird Club provides guided field trips and other birding opportunities. My friend, Kathy Dennis who supplied some of the photos in this post, has an excellent blog at http://life-birding-etc.blogspot.com. Bernheim is a terrific place to see and hear birds, with over 220 species reported.
When we make the effort to learn some of the bird songs and calls around us, we discover that the woods, wetlands, fields, and yes, hills are indeed alive with the sound of music. It’s worth a listen!
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