The Dawn Chorus–Nature’s Best Symphony

As I come over the hill, I hear the wood thrush singing his evening lay. This is the only bird whose note affects me like music, affects the flow and tenor of my thoughts, my fancy and imagination. It lifts and exhilarates me…. It is a medicative draught to my soul. It is an elixir to my eyes and a fountain of youth to all my senses….“–Henry David Thoreau, Journal 22, June 1853

The time is 4:24 am. I sit upright in bed, awakened by an inspirational choir that has just burst into sound. Vacationing in the woods of northern Vermont, I’ve taken a summer sojourn back to the temperate forests of my childhood. I was entitled to sleep until noon as the obvious privilege of vacation. But late sleepers in the short New England summer miss one of the best musical events of the year. The red-breasted robin is the first songster on nature’s program. Greeting the pre-dawn with a melodious, cheerful message, it reminds all of the forest denizens that sunrise is imminent. The robin’s instinctive time-clock is accurate within seconds: Slivers of pink and red soon slice across the dark sky, interspersed with fingers of mist rising from last evening’s thundershower. Soon, that dawn harbinger is joined by a couple of other robins, a trio in full song. As if not to be outdone, the white-throated sparrows join in. Their lyrical solos echo, “Oh sweet Canada, Canada”. One of my favorite voices of nature, this poignant song instead says to me, “Oh, back home-again, home-again.” It is comforting that, almost two centuries after Thoreau described New England songbirds, their melodies have remained remarkably true over time.

Within ten minutes of the robin’s wake-up lyrics, the entire hillside chorus is in full sound–red-eyed vireo, house wren, bluebird, goldfinch, —> Read More