Late spring/early summer is a great time to sleep outdoors. I’m lucky enough to have a porch that is screened from floor to ceiling on three sides. It’s like sleeping outdoors with the comforts of home.
There’s usually not a lot to see as the woods encroach pretty closely on the porch. There wouldn’t be much to see in the dark anyway, of course. But I can hear everything.
I typically sleep through the night but am occasionally jarred awake by a barred owl hooting or opossum trying to get into the compost pile. After years of breaches, I finally have the compost properly secured.
The dawn chorus usually wakes me up. I listen to it for about half an hour and then fall back asleep.
The other morning, it started at 4:21 with a lone robin singing in the nearby woods. An eastern wood pewee soon chimed in with its high-pitched song as if asking the robin to please be quiet. By 4:30, other robins joined in and it was game on.
A tufted titmouse sang its “peter-peter-peter” song from a nearby branch. Titmice are small birds with a big voice. If the robin hadn’t awoken me at 4:21, the titmouse certainly would have.
A cardinal sang in the distance and I heard a turkey gobbling from deep in the woods. I’ve seen turkeys in my yard twice in all the time I’ve lived here, so I was surprised to hear them join the fray that morning.
A hermit thrush sang its flute-like song, and I recalled the nice poem that a reader had written and sent me last week. Thrushes certainly do have interesting and beautiful songs.
I also heard a song I didn’t recognize. It sounded somewhat like a black-billed cuckoo, but I’m sure it wasn’t that. It’s always nice to know there is more to learn.
Then the woodpeckers started tapping on their territorial branches. They choose branches, or other objects such as houses or chimney flashing, that are loud and reverberate. A yellow-bellied sapsucker favors a dead branch in my side yard and a pileated woodpecker uses one in my backyard. Thankfully, the tappings I heard that morning were coming from deeper in the woods.
Many birders can determine a species of woodpecker by the cadence of its tapping. I was amazed the first time I had seen that and figured I’d never reach that level of expertise. After studying the sapsucker and pileated woodpecker up close, I’m starting to get the hang of it.
Also significant was what I didn’t hear. No leaf blowers, lawn mowers, weed whackers, chainsaws or machinery of any kind. Not even any cars or trucks. These sounds have become so pervasive in everyday life they become like background noise.
But at this time of day, only the birds could be heard. That thought pleased me greatly and I dozed back off to sleep.