Bird Song

One morning a couple of weeks ago when patches of snow were still scattered across the backyard, we heard the first real sign of spring: the Peter, Peter, Peter of a tufted titmouse. Soon, all around us, the birds who’d lived so quietly in our midst through these last brutal months — cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, and woodpeckers — burst into song.  It didn’t matter to the birds that a snow squall had swirled through the Berkshires earlier or that the ground was still frozen.  Apparently, it’s the light — not the temperature — that acts as an hormonal trigger and prompts our fine feathered friends to start whistling for a mate. As the migrating birds return, I know these first tentative love songs will soon swell into a mighty chorus of such passionate intensity that, by early June, we’ll need to shut the bedroom window in the morning to get a little sleep.  For now, though, the cardinal’s Cheer, Cheer, Cheer seems the perfect toast to welcome a season we were beginning to fear would never come.   The beautiful photos of a cardinal (above) and piliated woodpecker (right) were taken by my brother Anders.

Here’s a poem that features birdsong by the American poet Timothy Steele whose formal mastery is often cleverly disguised by a keen sense of humor.

In the Memphis Airport

by Timothy Steele

Above the concourse, from a beam,
A little warbler pours forth song.
Beneath him, hurried humans stream:
Some draw wheeled suitcases along
Or from a beeping belt or purse
Apply a cell phone to an ear;
Some pause at banks of monitors
Where times and gates for flights appear.

 Although by nature flight-endowed,
 He seems too gentle to reproach
These souls who soon will climb through cloud
In first class, business class, and coach.
He may feel that it’s his mistake
He’s here, but someone ought to bring
A net to catch and help him make
His own connections north to spring.

He cheeps and trills on, swift and sweet,
Though no one outside hears his strains.
There, telescopic tunnels greet
The cheeks of their arriving planes;
A ground crew welcomes and assists
Luggage that skycaps, treating bags
Like careful ornithologists,
Banded with destination tags.

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6 Responses to Bird Song

  1. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    I don’t like airplanes at all….I am a train lover …and a bird lover. It is a solace to have so many now returning. I love these photos.

  2. I love it when a bird lands in a subway station, like some pigeons and sparrows I have seen hopping up the stairs as if they need to go to work along with the rest of us.

    My question is: do you know which bird makes the tea kettle whistle? I have been hearing them around town lately.

    Great photos, Anders.

    • Liza says:

      We have birds in the Westside Market all the time, hopping down the aisles looking for bargains. I’m happy to say they’re shown the door with due respect. Could the bird be a wren, perhaps?

  3. Phyllis Azar says:

    Thanks for the lovely post, poem, and pix. Perhaps spring will find it’s way to Brooklyn soon?

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