Morning Chorus

As May comes to an end and spring blends into summer, the early morning chorus here begins in the dark before dawn, a little after 5:00, with the song of a Northern Cardinal, answered by another Cardinal, their clear, bright notes a musical preview of sunrise. A few minutes pass before an Eastern Phoebe begins to sing – often in the branches of the oaks right outside our bedroom windows – then a Carolina Wren, Summer Tanager, Northern Parula, and a Louisiana Waterthrush that comes up from the banks of the creek early each morning for just a few minutes to sing in the woods on the edge of our back yard. Occasionally a Black-and-white Warbler also comes by with its high weesa-weesa-weesa song.

Not long before 6:00, a Scarlet Tanager sings, joined by a Red-eyed Vireo and Pine Warbler in the woods and Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Chipping Sparrow, Eastern Towhee and Northern Mockingbird in the shrubs and trees around the house. A Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers call, and the chorus reaches its fullest, most exuberant expression, which lasts for only about 15 minutes before subsiding, still well before sunrise, into more scattered, though continuing, songs here and there all day.

Unfortunately, we no longer hear a Chuck-will’s-widow singing in the night and early morning hours, and summer doesn’t seem the same without it. Some neighbors have told me they miss it, too, and we assume that clearing and development of land in the surrounding area has changed the habitat it needs. It’s not quite warm enough yet for katydids, so the nights are rather quiet, though crickets and frogs are chirping.

But we do still often hear the calls of Barred Owls – two were calling from not far away just last night – and it’s always a pleasure to hear their unexpected low, chest-rumbling who-cooks-for-you hoots, usually in deep twilight or around three or four in the morning, and sometimes even in the middle of a day.

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