Where have all the songbirds gone?

Have the songbirds gone already? It seems like only yesterday that the snows blanketed field and forest and folks like me were looking for the first signs of Spring. And we found those signallers of Spring in the arrival of some songbirds, the new buds on the trees, and the greening of the grass.

Have the songbirds gone already?

It seems like only yesterday that the snows blanketed field and forest and folks like me were looking for the first signs of Spring.

And we found those signallers of Spring in the arrival of some songbirds, the new buds on the trees, and the greening of the grass.

It has become suspiciously quiet here the last few weeks.

From April through June I was regularly awakened by the tweets and twitters of various song birds outside my bedroom window.

And while doing the morning dishes, through the kitchen window I could hear a cacophony of ‘calls’ and ‘come hithers’ that were interrupted by birds honking overhead, or the red tail hawks ‘kee, kee, kee’.

During the Spring mating and breeding season the songbirds are all ‘hooking-up’ and the communications and miscommunications are a mish-mash of melodies that fill the air.

Fattening up after a long northward migration takes time, and the birds congregate at the best feeding sites, and I can imagine them telling each other about the more trendy feeding and gathering spots to see and be seen.

After all, the best way to find a mate is to hangout where the gang hangs out.

And once the mating is done, a nest of eggs is laid. The female sits on this clutch being fed by her partner, and regularly tweets him for a worm.

Once the eggs hatch then often both the male and female make regular sorties to bring food to the open mouths.

If you have ever watched a mother bird bringing food to the next you will have noticed that she drops bits of food into each mouth. You could almost imagine that she is spitting a wad deeply into each noisey open beak.

By June the best nesting sites have been agreed upon, birds are partnered up and the raising of the family of chicks takes place.

By July, most of the baby birds have some feathers and Ma and Pa begin to encourage the fledglings to leave the overcrowded nest.

The new birds soon find their wings and learn to feed themselves.

During this period much discussion seems to take place in the bird world on what to eat, where to go, how to behave, who to trust, and where to take shelter. Now, it is nearly the beginning of August, and the songbirds have appeared to disappear, both visually and audibly. I have listened and not heard them. I have watched and not seen them in the trees or feeding on the ground.

This gives me pause for concern, since it means that the season is coming to an end, with shorter days, cooler temperatures and with it the return of long quiet dark winters. Other signs of the changing of the season strike my eye.

The purple asters are out now, one of the later bloomers. The squirrels are beginning to collect some pine and spruce cones and hide them away for the coming winter.

The crows are showing signs of ganging up again, sitting atop each fence post for a quarter mile and waiting for the signal to go south. The hay is all baled, the crops are ripening and hardening off and the growth of the lawn grass has slowed down.

Spring started early this year, then slowed down enough to become a late spring and late start to summer.

Yet, nature takes its time, and always finds the time to fit everything into the four seasons. The animals are all showing rational behaviour learned from their eons of instincts to do what needs doing.

Man, as argued by philosophers, has been called distinct from other creatures in being termed “ the rational animal”.

One could make a good case against that argument though.

We have only to wonder why it is that month after month, year after year, and century after century we can find so many examples of irrational behaviour in the name of religion, resources or power.

I know where the songbirds have gone, but I do not know where mankind is going.

Paul Hemingson is a freelance writer who lives near Spruce View. Contact him at paulhemi@telusplanet.net or www.paulhemingson.ca

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