Growing up, one of my favorite memories was walking out the back door to our farm house in the early morning, and hearing hundreds of meadowlarks singing in the north pasture. It was particularly heavenly when there was frost on the grass, the air crisp and cold, breath hanging in a mist. That sweet song seemed so pure and clean in the still morning air. It set a cheery tone before the bustle of a busy day on the farm began.
All my life, I’ve been delighted, entertained, or even saddened by many bird songs or calls I’ve had the opportunity to hear. It’s unfortunate that many people are nowadays bound to city life, without the opportunity to experience the wonderful interplay of all nature’s creatures, especially those that sing to us.
Mockingbirds seemingly will serenade you for hours at a time, while bravely flitting from post to limb captivating you with their antics as they survey their territory, jealously guarding it. A fun bird indeed, and one even city folk can observe readily. The raucous calls of crows in the fields, always alert and cautious for danger, seemingly mock any farmer trying to protect his garden or crops. One often sees a lookout on a high post ready to sound the alarm to the remainder of the flock, known as a “murder of crows”. Like owls, they are country birds. It’s one of the many sounds that remind me of home and hearth.
Oh, yes. The owl with it’s “who, who, who” is constantly asking “who” you are, or “who cooks for you all”. He is the one that, as a night bird, makes you want to peer over your shoulder to see if it’s anyone else he might be referring to. Who?
The mournful sound of the common loon, in the evening over the water of my favorite fishing hole, is a sad, sweet sound that is reminiscent of loneliness. It favors bodies of water and loves to dive for fish. It seems that every songbird has a different message to it’s listener, at least to me. Each either brings joy, delight, sadness, excitement, anxiety, or even perplexity when the song is from some bird you can’t see and have never heard before.
Some even call out particular names. Any farmer named Robert White may find birds in his field calling out to him, “Bob-white, bob-white, bob-white”. Edgar Allen Poe spoke of a talking Raven – “quoth the raven ‘nevermore’”.
My wife is especially fond of nighthawks as they call from the evening sky, “Mee-erp, mee-erp”. One can even hear them in town, especially at night in parking lots with tall lights where flying bugs are attracted. They are a rather strange looking sort with dull feathers, fat heads, large eyes and long bug-catching whiskers. But the sound is one of her youth, days and evenings spent at home next to natural creek in the big city, her own small patch of nature. She says she only heard crows when she went camping, so to her, if she hears one in the city, it’s time for a trip outdoors.
But the song of the Western Meadowlark is my personal favorite. It’s a beautiful bird with a bright yellow breast and a black neck tie. It has a striped back of dark brown and white lines, an elegant bird that would not be out of place in a ballroom or formal affair. It’s song may not be to your taste, but to me it is the sweetest sound a bird can make.