Thinking about spring and all the bird song that fills the air reminds me of that there has been relative silence during the winter months. Bird song begins with spring and builds throughout the nesting season until it ends usually in late July or August. Spring migration brings us many songbirds who will brighten our days for the next few months. Olive-sided flycatchers entertain us from on high with their, “hic… three beers,” while the rich warble of the purple finch constantly fills the air. I hear it echo melodiously throughout the forests of the Peninsula where ever I am.
The American robin sings constantly in the spring as well. It is generally found on lawns, in parks and in other open habitats. Its song, a lyrical whistle, is a typical of the thrushes. A few of our other spring and summer residents sound almost like it. The colorful orange, yellow and black western tanager, for example, sounds like a robin with a sore throat, while the black-headed grosbeak’s song is more like that of a lazy robin. Listen carefully and you will catch the distinctions.
The other thrushes that come to mind in spring is the Swainson’s thrush and the varied thrush. The Swainson’s thrush’s smooth, rolling, flute like call rings loud and clear from deep in the woods as does the song of the varied thrush which is a little more difficult to describe in words. Sibley says it best: “a single, long whistle on one pitch: one and a half seconds long and repeated about every ten seconds; each whistle on a different pitch” (2014). A great place to hear the varied thrush is on the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge’s Cutthroat Trail located at headquarters on U.S. Highway 101. You will never forget the song once you have heard it!
The wetlands are also alive with song these days and it will get better in the next few weeks. Red-winged blackbird males perch on the tops of bulrushes and belt out their “konk-a-ree, konk-a-ree” as they mark their territory and try to attract a female. The tiny marsh wren has a big sound for such a small bird. It, too, sits atop marsh plants. Its song is a combination of gurgles, rattles and bubbling noises that is reminiscent of a sewing machine. The common yellowthroat, notable for its black mask and brilliant yellow throat, gives out a gentle, but loud, melodious “witchety, witchety, witchety” from its marshy habitat. The yellow warbler mainly wears bright yellow, but has a few pale reddish streaks on its underside. It too, can be found and heard wet areas where there is a lot of cover. Listen, for a high pitched but clear “sweet, sweet, shredded wheat.” This is the song of the yellow warbler.
The birds of spring, sing loud and clear, and they sing like what seems forever. They seem to be asking others of their species, “Can you hear me now?” Perhaps they are also singing to us and asking the same question, “Can you hear me now?”