Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Listening to the Predawn Morse Code

Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Red-eyed vireo.

The leaves may still be green, and the insects in full voice. The bluebirds are still feeding nestlings, the meadow is still dotted with blooming wildflowers, and the kids have yet to head back to school, but the seasons are changing.

I was up very early this morning—before light—and when I stepped outside, the still morning darkness was broken ever so slightly by the Morse code of migrant birds overhead, whispering their contact calls to their fellow travelers.
Nashville warbler.

I'm sure there were thrushes, and some sparrows, perhaps a vireo or two. And I'm positive I heard a warbler. I wish I knew these small, little-heard vocalizations better.

Dawn arrived yet none of the passerines dropped into our trees. So the mystery lingers. But tomorrow is another day with another dawn. And I plan to be up and out and listening expectantly in the darkness.


On August 10, 2011 at 9:08 AM mkircus said...

Thanks for this post. I was totally unaware that one could hear migrants. I don't know if that is because I live in a migrant destination or stopover on the Texas coast or if I am not paying enough attention.

I did have the experience two years in a row of dreaming of hearing whip-poor-wills and then waking up and realizing they were migrating through my Houston neighborhood. I lived in a house with a atrium that was only screened from the sky and could easily hear bird calls.

On August 10, 2011 at 11:14 AM CNemes said...

It's so encouraging to know that autumn is on its way! I'll have to keep an ear to the skies for migrants, though we probably get more noise pollution here. Do birds use their standard chip notes while migrating, or do they make completely different "contact calls"?

I've also heard that when the moon is full or near-full during migration, you can train your scope at the moon and actually see nighttime migrants silhouetted against it! I tried it last fall with binoculars, to no avail :P Have you had any luck with this?

On August 10, 2011 at 5:20 PM Angie in TO said...

We saw Bobolinks in their "winter" plumage just last Saturday, they are getting ready to return south for another year.

On August 11, 2011 at 9:07 AM Chatterbirds said...

Nice post on listening to nocturnal migrants. There is something distinctly magical about hearing the call notes of warblers, grosbeaks, and even occasional shorebirds drifting down from the night sky.

On August 13, 2011 at 3:39 PM Pedro Lourenço said...

Here is another blog you may also enjoy:

it presents a different bird species everyday!

On August 14, 2011 at 1:14 PM missing moments said...

Just discovered you and glad I did! I'll be hanging around often!

On August 22, 2011 at 8:15 AM Terry van Niekerk Coffee Adventures Boquete said...

Hello! Nice blog!!
I am waiting for the migrants here in Panama... the first ones that I always see very early in September is the black and white Warbler and the American Redstart, so exciting!!!