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  • Writer's pictureJean Linville

Colloquialism & 2 Birds

I love colloquialisms and yesterday morning while taking a walk "A bird in the hand, is worth two in the bush" popped into my mind. But, as I continued on my walk, I found myself revising it into a simple little ditty, "A brisk morning walk in early spring, is worth the shivers to hear the birds sing." It is amazing how the sound of the mornings has changed over the past few days. Now, when I step out the door as the sun first begins to crest the nearby hill, instead of a cold stillness, I am greeted with a mixed chorus of voices raised in song, celebrating the arrival of a new day. It is such a powerful and uplifting affirmation. The chorus of bird voices includes those who wish to be center stage, vying for brief solos, and those who voices stay soft and in the background. It actually requires a bit of investigative work to determine just who is adding all of the tones to this lilting symphony. One of my "go to" sources to help figure things out are the Stokes Nature Guides.

One of the latest and loudest arrivals to our lake this past week have been the Red-Winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus). The bright red and yellow patches on the "shoulders" of their wings matches the vibrancy of their song. Particularly thrilling is the trill of the male in the spring while he is establishing his territory and trying to attract a mate. According to Stokes, the song of the male is "a variable phrase except for the last part, which always gets the emphasis and is a drawn-out eeee." This song, my favorite of the blackbird, often sound like "ookalee". To hear a sampling, click the image to the right.

My favorite "soft" bird voices come from another recent arrival to our lake, the Wood Duck (Aix sponsa). Although these birds are also visually stunning, especially the males, and much larger than the red-winged blackbirds, their song is often soft and barely heard. They are mostly recognized by their characteristic "oo-eek" call, which you can hear if you click on the image to the left, but I especially love hearing the soft "ji-ihb" sound of the males which Stokes characterizes as "a drawn-out, reedy whistle accented at the end. Soft and heard only at close range...given by male at dawn and twilight..." Besides this surprisingly quiet sound, another interesting fact about the wood duck is that they are the only native species of perching ducks in North America. Not only do they perch in trees, they also nest in tree holes high above the lakes and ponds that they habit. We are lucky to have both of these voices welcoming spring to our lake every year.

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