Every twelve months the spring season unfolds in predictable, measured degrees. Piecemeal, at first, the vivid, visual cues accelerate in speed and intensity like a tsunami approaching a coastline. The yellows appear while it’s still cold, followed closely by the reds. By mid-April pale-greens, blues, purples, whites and flecks of gold become a static backdrop for a brief, frenzied crescendo of animated pigments.
I’m as fascinated with the aural aspects of spring migration as I am with the visual spectacle. The chorus of songbird sounds only occur once a year. During fall migration, males no longer need to attract a mate or claim territory. Their extraordinary burst of energy during the spring is supplanted by short, concise chip notes and calls. It’s not just the bird songs that change the landscape, but also, the buzzes, chirps and tics of a multitude of insects. Trees, devoid of leaves in the winter, creak and pop in arctic winds. Come spring the sibilance of wind pushing through leaf laden branches breathe, rustle and hiss. Sometimes I’ll hear an unrecognizable sound and hunt for the source as I would track a bird. Metal parks department identification tags on trees jangling in the wind frequently catch my attention.
The spring chorus of birds is so brief that each April I dust off my “Birding by Ear” CDs and spend a week or two studying. Some days there is such a profusion of birds that I allow myself to become enveloped by their songs. With my eyes closed my mind transposes the a cappela notes into images of minute, vibrant birds. Perhaps the first instrument makers where inspired naturalists trying to imitate birds. We're still trying.
Here are some interesting links regarding bird song and nature sounds:
Birds and Circular breathing (Real Player needed)
Anatomy of the Syrinx
Rescue for Silence By Gordon Hempton
Naturerecordists Worldwide Dawn Chorus Recordings
Saturday, April 08, 2006