2002.07.17 Waking with the birds

Written by David Green.

BY DAVID GREEN

Friday, July 5, approximately 5:30 a.m. Half asleep in a tent in the back yard of my sister’s cottage. Suddenly I’m torn awake by the sound of a bird overhead.

It catches me by surprise. It’s a mourning dove. One loud and nearby call and then nothing more. That’s it. The first bird of the morning.

Does this sound right to the rest of you early risers who awaken easily to the sound of birds at daybreak? A mourning dove?

Doves have such a distinctive call. A plaintive cooing that seemed so familiar and yet a little strange that morning. Ever since the infamous 5-9 Day of 2000, when our back yard spruce went down in the storm, we haven’t had a dove family in the yard. I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve heard one up close.

It’s the male that gives the characteristic mourning call. He was probably just defending his territory, and I certainly wasn’t challenging it.

A dove fact: Unlike other birds who take a little water and tilt back their heads to drink, the dove can sip it up through the beak. It leaves its bill right in the water while it drinks.

Approximately 5:35 a.m. Now the robins come alive. This is what I’m accustomed to hearing early in the morning. Robins have a very characteristic morning voice—actually about the same as their late evening voice. It’s much different from the usual daytime talking. It’s not really a song as much as a lot of short, quick, musical notes.

On the mornings when I wake up early and am unable to get back to sleep, that first robin lets me know that I’m going to be tired later in the day. It tells me: “It’s too late now. Morning is here, it’s getting light.”

A robin fact: The female is the nest builder. She makes a cup-shaped nest that has an outer foundation of long grass, twigs, paper and feathers woven together. The inner bowl of the nest is lined with mud and smeared with her breast. Later, softer material is added to cushion the eggs.

Probably about 5:50 a.m. Now the remainder have joined in. It’s all the little guys, sparrows, I suppose. It’s getting louder out there now. There’s no more sleeping with all of that going on.

It sounds as though there are dozens in the area. I’m assuming they’re house sparrows, which aren’t really sparrows at all. They’re weaver finches. They get pretty aggressive when they’re protecting their territory, and that means they get pretty noisy, which they’re doing as I lay in the tent.

Sparrow fact: These birds are everywhere, but only for last 120 years. A classic case of human intervention gone awry, the house sparrow was introduced to this country in 1851 when a hundred birds were released in Brooklyn, NY.

Approximately 6:15 a.m. If I thought it was loud before, I was mistaken. There are a lot of blue jays living in that neighborhood and they’re all having a morning brawl in the pine trees near the tent.

They might seem like bullies, but there’s a lot to like about a jay. The color is stunning, the variety of calls is most entertaining, and they’re just a lot of fun to watch.

A blue jay fact: Blue jays are good at imitating the call of a hawk. They often give it when a hawk is circling overhead.

Those are morning stories and there’s room for one from the evening.

May 1971, Leelanau Peninsula. A quiet pine woods at dusk, back from the shore of Lake Michigan. A bird calls. It almost sounds electric. It’s a hermit thrush.  It’s simply one of the most amazing sounds to hear in an evening woods. There’s nothing else like it.

Summer is only half over. There’s still time for vacationing, still time to wake up somewhere in a tent. When you’re out there, don’t forget to listen to the birds. They have some very interesting things to say.

    – July 17, 2002
  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017