Friday, May 8, 2009

No Sweeter Sound

Every spring I swear I hear a wood thrush singing for one or two mornings, and then all I hear are hermit thrushes. So, I convince myself that the wood thrush was really a hermit thrush, perhaps rusty as it started singing for the new season. Well, this morning as I was coming down the walkway to work, I heard the lovely flutey music that could only be a wood thrush. I spent some time listening to it, trying to garner any small detail that I could so I could verify it inside with a recording. What stood out was the stuttering start to the ee-o-layyy. I rushed inside to the Thayer's Birding Software and queued up the wood thrush. There it was, the stuttering start (reminded me of the old Chia Pet ad: "ch-ch-ch-Chia") followed by that sweet sweet song. It's nice to know that all these years I was right: wood thrushes sing here before the hermits.

But that then brings the ponderable: what happens to them? Do they move on to better habitats, leaving just the hermits behind? I know that wood thrushes are in dire straits these last few years - populations in serious decline, mostly due to loss of habitat. They like woodlands near fields for nesting (I monitored a nest one year for Cornell's Lab of Orthinology's Citizen Science program), but their wintering grounds are under "attack" as well.

The world will be a sadder and quieter place without the song of the wood thrush.


  1. Yes, every year I wait for the return of the "woody" across the road from our place. It's always the very end of April or first week of May that it returns, and such a joy when it is heard once more. Lately however, all has been silent -- both morning and evening. If the silence continues much longer, I'm afraid of the worst...

  2. How lucky to have both hermits and woods, both of them mighty sweet singers. Years and years ago when I lived in Ann Arbor MI we would observe hermit thrushes passing through on their way north. As they scratched in the leaves outside my window, I would hear them whisper their song, faint but unmistakedly the hermit thrush song, as if they were practicing up for when they reached their breeding grounds.