The return of familiar songs and soaring

Adult male Red-winged Blackbird

There was snow on the ground yesterday morning but today started out warmer than it had been for the last week and it just got better from there! The forecast calls for 50’s and 60’s all week with plenty of sunshine and the occasional rain. Rain is fine because we need it for things to start growing and to wash off the roads that are still white with salt.

When Jaycie and I headed out for the bus this morning there was a hawk soaring in the sky and he glided from west to east upon the breeze as we watched. I told her that I gauge the arrival of spring by when I see the first turkey vulture because they don’t stick around our area all winter. When turkey vultures return and start gliding through the skies on their huge wings searching for roadkill and carcasses, then I believe that spring is truly on its way.

Turkey vulture

A few hours after Jaycie got on the bus, a turkey vulture soared over the trees across the road and I smiled feeling as if the universe had heard my words this morning. Now that I’ve seen those familiar scavengers soaring in the sky I’m certain that spring is coming and that this nice weather isn’t just some cruel trick. I spent the morning working on my writing projects inside but by noon, I couldn’t resist the call of the beautiful outdoors any longer. I got Jazzmin strapped in her backpack, tied up my sneakers and grabbed a light sweatshirt because while it was 53, the wind gusts were making it a bit cool to go without a coat.

As Jazzmin and I walked, I heard the familiar songs of birds that had returned from their winter vacation to the south. I heard the songs of robins, red-winged blackbirds and killdeers. Although the “Winter Wonderland” song states “gone away is the bluebird” a few of my bluebirds never left and I heard their song all winter long. Now that it’s warmer, there will be more bugs around for the bluebirds to eat and they will be more plentiful,  which always makes me happy.

Eastern Bluebird

I feel a special connection to all the birds that frequent my feeders through the winter and into the spring and who make their homes on my property. Just through watching and listening to the birds in my yard an on our walks, I’ve learned to identify various species by their song, size and plumage. Quite often I hear birds but don’t see them and I feel a small surge of satisfaction that I can recognize them just by their song. I’m still not good at identifying the different types of hawks I see around because they’re not really fond of close observation, but eventually I’ll sort them out too.

Northern Goshawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

Red-shouldered hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Right now I’m just enjoying the return of the familiar songs and soaring of spring!

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When you know the song…

One of my bluebirds on their favorite pine tree perch.

One of my bluebirds on their favorite pine tree perch.

Growing up, I remembering marveling at how much my dad knew about life, the universe and everything. I couldn’t comprehend how he held all that knowledge in his head. While I don’t know the same information he did, I have my own library of knowledge in my head and it’s constantly expanding.

One of the mental encyclopedias I’m most fond and proud of is the one containing my ability to recognize a bird by the sound of their song. As long as I’ve seen the bird before and either heard it singing or listened to its song online, I can usually recognize it when I’m outside. When I know the song, I know the bird and it’s a musical reminder that I’m never alone.

Some days when I walk Jazzmin I hear a variety of songs, while other days I hear only a couple. Last week I took her on a short walk and the only song I heard was from the Eastern Bluebirds. I walked down a total of three roads and on each of them was a pair of bluebirds singing to each other. I hadn’t realized how many bluebirds were around where I lived until I knew their song so well from hearing it coming from the ones in my own yard. I like their song, it sounds  very calm and cheerful to me.

Another favorite bird song of mine is the one sung by the Eastern Towhee. I rarely see these birds but I hear them on almost every walk. Their song is unmistakable and resembles a melodic “drink your tea!” that’s warbly and sweet. I enjoy the songs of the cardinals too and find them as pretty as the birds themselves.

While I appreciate all of my feathered family and friends, some of their songs aren’t exactly what I want to hear at 5 a.m. Like this morning when the House Wren and Great Crested Flycatcher were both tittering away in the pine tree by my bedroom window. I’ve learned to sleep through the robins at 4 a.m. and grown accustomed to the cardinals too but other songs jolt me awake. Perhaps the birds have caught on to this and send different singers near my window to help me “rise and shine.”