South of here, the sounds of spring would call me out of my seasonal semi-stupor even if I was still hunkered down and had barely cracked a window yet. I’d be driving somewhere in a fog or maybe stuck in my kitchen, hoping that first blast of fresh April air would blow some dust off me. Suddenly spring would reach in and knock me upside the head.
“Peeeeeep…..Peeeeeeep…..Peeeeeep!” Peepers! Their familiar falsetto was loud enough to jerk me awake—to make me look hard for daffodils and other boisterous signs of the season I’d probably missed—and mesmerizing enough to make me leave the window open till the heat had to kick back on.
Once they caught my attention, I’d be all ears for the peepers. Standing on my back deck in my fuzzy pants each evening, I strained to hear them bring every little pucker brush puddle back life. As the tundra thawed, the crescendo swelled until, by May, hundreds of teensy frogs—wound to a frenzy in the circle of life—surrounded me in one, long tumultuous chorus.
Peepers weren’t the only species to wake me from my hibernation. During one particularly belated spring, I didn’t even need to open the window to hear the rhythm of pent up instinct bursting forth outside.
“FWUMPPP….Fwapp, fwapp, fwapp, fwapp….flop.”
I lay in bed listening and wondering. An early morning illusion perhaps, a figment of a pre-dawn dream state? “FWUMPPP….Fwapp, fwapp, fwapp, fwapp….FLOP.”
The only other noise it resembled was the coffee maker. But, this was way before Mister Coffee came with a computer chip to automatically respond to my brewing habits and—unless wishful thinking had somehow started it perking—the thing wasn’t even on. I shuffled out toward the kitchen to be greeted by the roundest-breasted robin ever perched on the deck railing staring at my dining room window. He peered up at the glass so intently it was obvious he wasn’t just admiring my African violets on the other side of the sill. He’d cock his head from side to side, take a running leap and FWUMPPP… right into the window he’d go. Then he’d hover and peck, perch and fly…FWUMPPP and repeat. Over and over and over and over.
Our first explanation was that he had the worst case of jet lag in bird history and was disoriented and starving. Five days later, we were still waiting for Nature to help him get his groove back when we finally went out to observe his view from the deck on the other side of the window. “He sees another big robin sitting all fat and sassy in a tree in his territory and he’s fighting back,” Tom concluded. And judging from the appearance of the deck railing, this feisty fella was at least a pound of food a day away from starving. Two days later, he was still defending himself against his own reflection and driving us completely batty. “What is that bird’s problem?” I hollered for the 15th time in a row.
Way too much bird-and-bee kind of energy, I figured. I was grateful that my friends the peepers could keep their spring fever percolating out in the swamp where it belonged and didn’t use it to propel themselves headlong into the house!
At the time I didn’t fully appreciate my little heralders of spring and their constant background noise. I didn’t realize that moving north would trigger a complete role reversal—that I’d be the one busting forth announcing to the world I’m ready for spring, yearning for an answer to my call. Sometimes I’m drawn to go outside in my PJs or even out in the yard till my slippers get soaked. Other times, I find myself on shores even more exotic than Mooselook.
“Ruck…ah…caaaauuw!” I sang off my lanai. It was early spring a year ago and, after a winter in Rangeley that almost froze off my tail feathers, I was more than thrilled to answer the call from the nearby plumeria trees. “Ruck…ah…caaaauuw!” (A couple mornings later, I’m pretty sure the folks from California on the balcony next to me were much more curious about my mental state than where I’d traveled from on the mainland.)
Luckily, by the time I migrate back to Rangeley, the songs of spring aren’t far behind. But, more than ever, I need to go out of my way to listen. “WhaWHO….WHO…ha…WHO….WHO…ha…WHO!”
Filtered through my R-25 insulated log walls, the first loons on the lake beckon. I rush outside, closer to the sound, tilting one newly-naked ear to the night air. Sometimes I answer, especially if Jim Beam comes with me. But mostly, I look out over the dark, ice-rimmed water, and smile. Soon, the Joy Birds will join in the song!
Much as I love peepers and loons, if I ever had to set my feelings for my Maine home to just one melody, it would be the Joy Bird’s. He’s been calling me back here ever since I was a kid, letting me walk without ever missing an IPod. “BOO..DOO…bum-ditty…bum-ditty..bum-ditty…bum!” To sing that sweetly, I imagined he had to be prettier than anything that came to my feeder before the squirrels took over. Must have lots of red on him to sound like that, or maybe blue, I thought. Then, when I finally got my first good look at the lusty whistler, I stood in disbelief for a long time before consulting Audubon and finding out my Joy Bird was actually a white-throated sparrow. A rather nondescript brown and white-throated sparrow, he was, with the tiniest thatch of yellow on his fervently singing head. “Fondly known as the ‘Whistler of the North,” my bird book said, “this sparrow heralds spring in the woods with his familiar song: Oh sweet, Canada, Canada, Canada.”
“Really?” I thought. I guessed BOO…DOO…bum-ditty…bum-ditty..bum-ditty…bum was too much of a mouthful for the Audubon folks.
Back outside with the bird book closed, my Joy Birds concurred. “BOO…DOO…bum-ditty…bum-ditty..bum-ditty…bum” they called, reminding me that the simplest creatures often sing the most beautiful songs. “Sweet Canada, my ass!” I chuckled, these little guys know the sweet spot is right here 40 miles from the Quebec border. Throwing my blonde-tufted head back until my parrot-bright tie dye peeked out from under my almost-summer fleece, I answered: “Oh, sweet warm, weather warm, warm weather!“