Spring mornings connect with summer afternoons from long ago, when the Wood Thrush sings.
Indigo buntings were everywhere:
Further up the trail, I saw a Yellow Breasted Chat:
A Red-Bellied Woodpecker:
And some sort of large nest:
I also took the spur trail up through some oak woods, to listen for the spring song of the wood thrush. For several years now, this has been a spring ritual for me. My first recollections of hearing this bird’s haunting melody date back to my young childhood days.
I remember walking with my Dad holding his hand. He suddenly stopped mid-step and tilted his head slightly.
“Hear that?” he asked me, looking up into the leafy trees.
I nodded, even though I couldn’t pick out any specific song from the morning bird chorus.
“That’s a wood thrush!” he said with quiet appreciation. I could only wonder what he had heard.
A few years later I was camping with my family as a kid at the Pleasant Ridge State Park in the foothills north of Greenville, SC. I remember laying on top of my sleeping bag in our tent one quiet Saturday afternoon. I think my Mom and sister were on their sleeping bags and my Dad was outside the tent doing something. As I lay there looking up at the spots of sunlight dancing on the top of the tent, I began to hear way off down in the woods, the most crystal clear beautiful birdsong. I couldn’t image what it was. For some reason I pictured a redwing blackbird.
I began whistling softly trying to mimic and memorize that song, so I wouldn’t lose it. The next day we packed up and went back to our lives in the little town of Greer. But I kept the sweet notes of that bird song with me. I tried to pick them out on my Mom’s piano. I whistled them. I dared not forget them.
As the years went by I would hear that song once in a while, on hikes, and once in a city park somewhere. I still didn’t know what it was, but I recognized it every time I heard it.
After I became an adult, I was given a book with audio recordings of birds. I finally learned that this song came from the wood thrush.
Now I listen for it every spring and summer.
You can learn more about the wood thrush here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/wood_thrush/id
Click the Sound tab to hear the Wood Thrush’s song.
Also here is a Youtube video of a Wood Thrush singing captured by Doug Bauman. Until seeing this video I never realized the full range of movements and sounds the Wood Thrush made when singing.
I hope you can hear it someday on a spring morning, or deep in the woods on a golden summer afternoon.
The recording also includes another distinct call it makes. I’d also heard this distinct call for a long time without realizing it was also from a Wood Thrush. To me it sounds like someone is clicking pebbles together loudly. A harsh fast Teek-Teek-Teek-Teek. Wood Thrushes make this sound when they are agitated or nervous. This sound appears at the end of the sound recording.
Its interesting to me how bird songs embed themselves in your memory and stay with you for years, decades – like a sense of smell. And just hearing a few notes on a chilly morning can take you back to long ago places.
Whenever I hear the Wood Thrush, I’m a kid again, walking hand in hand with my Dad.