Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sounds of the Country

Most of the time out here JOTOLR it’s very, very quiet. Quiet, that is, except for the intriguing sounds that emanate from our friends in the animal and bird worlds.

This time of year, the progression of unfolding springtime yields the joy of familiar sounds that mark our year. Of course, it begins with various birds declaring territory (and you thought they were simply celebrating, didn’t you!) Indeed, those males whose song is most appealing get the pick of the females seeking to nest. We humans reap the benefits of their courtship as we are treated to a vast symphonic presentation of love declarations. Once a year, the full throat of joy rings loudly throughout the forest canopy.  One cannot help but smile!

There are the usual and commonly anticipated voices of the titmouse, the cardinal, the song sparrow, the robin, the mockingbird, the blue jay, and others. We expect to hear these males every year. On the other hand, I wait for and then celebrate the song of the wood thrush that warbles into the depths of the close-by woods of newly leaved maples and locusts. The pileated woodpecker’s percussion announces its choice for a nesting location even though I cannot see the bird itself. The towhee is also among our anticipated guests.

Strangely, the wren’s call is not among the birdsongs this year. I must assume that this past harsh winter claimed that voice. The vacancy won’t last, however. I’m quite sure we’ll have an intrepid pair sometime again soon. They will nest at least twice, if not three times each year. Busy little beavers that they are!

Annually, though,  I wait with some trepidation,  wondering if I will ever hear the plaintive call of the whippoorwill again,  whose voice has been sparse and diminishing these past few years; same with the bobwhite, the scarlet tanager, the Baltimore oriole, the killdeer. Many of the sounds grow fainter and less numerous as pollution and habitat destruction impose their might..

Already, I’ve caught the echo of the wild turkey tom, gobbling furiously in our woods, looking for those three hens I saw earlier this month.

And the bullfrog populations are in full throat, now. They are a study all by themselves and I’ll wait for another day to dig into it. Meanwhile, there’s a wonderful website All About Frogs that you should visit for all sorts of information, some weird, some just interesting. It’s well worth a few moments. I thought the following had particularly resonance:

What sound does a frog make in YOUR language? Here is a list of some of the different ways people think frogs sound around the world!

Afrikaans: kwaak-kwaak
Arabic (Algeria): gar gar
Catalan: cru�-cru�
Chinese (Mandarin): guo guo
Dutch: kwak kwak
English (USA): ribbit
English (GB): croak
Finnish: kvak kvak
French: coa-coa
German: quaak, quaak
Hebrew: kwa kwa
Hungarian: bre-ke-ke
Italian: cra cra
Japanese: kerokero
Korean: gae-gool-gae-gool
Russian: kva-kva
Spanish (Spain): cru�-cru�
Spanish (Argentina): berp
Spanish (Peru): croac, croac
Swedish: kvack
Thai: ob ob (with high tone)
Turkish: vrak vrak
Ukrainian: kwa-kwa

Before reading the (above) list, I'd never even thought about the sound interpretations in other languages, ego centrist that I must be! 
Sun up to sun down, the crescendo is building out here JOTOLR. It's definitely not quiet.  That's for sure! the way, if you’d like to begin a hobby of watching birds and being able to identify their distinctive calls, take a keystroke over to Amazon and order yourself a good guide which includes not only good visual ID tools such as markings, migratory routes, etc. but also a CD that lets you hear the birds and identify them for the sounds they make without even being able to see them. A CD of birdsongs allows you to “see” in another dimension!


  1. Love this, especially that magnificent Tom. I'm going to miss living smack dab in the middle of the country. Instead, I'll be smack dab in the middle of my family. But there is a national forest 15 minutes away so I'll be able to get my fix, and I can always visit your blog! Thanks, Elora!

  2. Elora -- your concern for the birds that are in decline is one being addressed by the Nature Conservancy. They are bringing out a new book about just such matters. It is titled "The Atlas of Global Conservation" and is full of up-to-date maps and statistics which includes info on various bird species plus other natural beings. It will be available April 22nd. Their site is Sounds like a book your local library should carry. Sometimes if you ask them they will buy it for their stacks. Also, D C Birding Blog recently had a discussion about the book -- his address is
    Your homestead sounds ideal! What city folks are missing they'll never realize. -- barbara

  3. You know, it is interesting, i remember in a lesson of History of the English Language, we actually spent half the lesson imitating animal calls..there was a Brit, a Spanish girl, an Italian one and me...and it was interesting how there were even differences between British English and Canadian English!