The Original Symphony

By | June 12, 2015

One of my most memorable early-morning experiences occurred recently as I sat out in the backyard to await the dawn. Before I could detect any light, a single White-throated Sparrow broke the silence by singing his species’ classic pure-sweet-Canada-Canada-Canada in an Aspen grove bordering the yard (last year I heard a White-throated repeat Canada twenty-seven times in a row—a Guinness record, no doubt). About 15 minutes later, a distant Robin warmed up with his familiar cheerio, cheery-up, cheery-up, and then another joined in. A group of raspy sounding Crows in the high Pines adjacent to the Aspens seemed to take the Robins’ cue, although my impression was that they had things to talk about among themselves and didn’t need to be prompted by anybody.

The Crows flew off and it quickly grew lighter, with one song after another breaking out in rapid succession. They combined to form such an uplifting chorus that I lost all interest in keeping track of who was singing when and from where. Red-winged Blackbird’s conk-a-ree blended with rough-voiced Phoebe calling his name. In the background, the haunting oh, holy, holy of Hermit Thrush echoed through the woods, along with Veery’s cascading, ethereal trill. Piercing it all was the periodic crescendo of Wood Thrush’s flutelike fri-to-lay.

As dawn melted into day, the players one-by-one packed up their instruments and let the chorus dwindle to a loose ensemble. I left too, going to join my family and staff for breakfast. We ate outside, enjoying the occasional trill and warble of the backyard Birds. While we listened to the mealtime serenade, it no longer mattered to me that it was just the wind-down of a grand orchestral performance put on to greet the dawn.


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