Ephemeral chorus

After a full season surrounded by a quiet woodland, it is exciting to hear the woods come to life. First, high winds whipped through the treetops—creaking, rushing and whistling. Then the birds added their own lines, beginning with the chickadee singing its two-toned “Hey! This is MY territory!” song. Slowly more and more birds joined in the chorus. A new song is now introduced each day: cardinals, song sparrows, eastern bluebirds, red-bellied woodpeckers …

Then, one warm night very recently, that fabulously odd little bird started peenting. The mating ritual of the American woodcock always puts me on the prowl. “Peent”. I stop in my tracks. “Peent”. I turn my ear towards its nasal buzz. “Peent”. I stay very still, waiting for the … “Chirp, chirp, twitter, twitter, twitter.” He’s up! I scurry towards the area where I think heard him, keeping my eyes to the sky and looking for his spiraling flight and focusing my ears on the metallic twitter of his wings. If I get there before he lands I might get to see him! I do this for a few of his courtship displays, impressed every time (and I’m not even his type!) Hey, how else am I going to see one? They have such amazing camouflage! I give chase every year—I can’t help myself. Out of breath and giddy, I know that spring is on its way.

Next to join the woodland ensemble are my favorite vocalists—frogs! After a few consecutive warm nights and warmer days I listen intently for their song, which I began this past weekend. First, the chorus frogs began with their rasping trill. Their song is similar to a fingernail running down the teeth of a comb. Though that description simply does not do their chorus justice. Many chorus frogs trilling at once is truly awesome. Don’t have a vernal pond near your home? Listen to a chorus here. Once the chorus frogs really get going, spring peepers add their voices to the mix. This is a welcome sign that winter has indeed given way to spring. These tiny tree frogs are my favorite harbinger of spring. If these little guys are brave enough to venture out from under logs, then wildflowers and warm rains aren’t far behind.

Now, it’s time to begin the search for sprouts under the leaf litter.