Red-winged black bird RTSA.jpg

A red-winged black bird warns others to stay away. file photo

I was sitting in the woods waiting for two things: the darkness to turn into the light of day and the sound of that first turkey gobble of the morning. While waiting, I thought about how more often than not, we talk about the wonderful sights of nature but we forget to mention the sounds of the wild. Is a spring gobble on a chilly morning something that makes you take notice, smile, and say to yourself:  “How cool is that?” Me, too.

While I waited to hear the turkey’s morning announcement, I came up with the idea of Power Ranking Sounds of the Wild. Here are my top 10.

10. Red-winged black birds. You know how a song triggers a distant memory from your past?  The sound of a male red winged blackbird does the same thing for me. Whenever I hear that spring call announcing a territorial boundary I think of the small bay where my dad used to keep his boat docked. The picture in my head is that of a red winged black bird sitting atop a cattail.  In addition to providing a great memory of jumping in the boat with my dad, it’s a cool sound.

9. Woodpeckers. Here’s a tidbit for you: when you’re sitting in the woods and you hear woodpeckers hammering away on a tree, they are really communicating in Morse Code. The kicker is that they are most definitely talking about you. Make sure you’re giving them nothing but good things to say while you are in their home.

8.  Owls. When those big snowy owls migrate down during the winter months and they throw out a hoot in the fading light of a winter day, it’s almost spooky. Songbirds don’t make a lot of racket during the winter so when an owl pierces the night with a call, it’s captivating.

7. Wood ducks. Yes, they sure are pretty to look. When I hear that shrieking “eee-ooock” I look to the sky and expect to see a pair of woodies pinwheeling by so fast that you think there’s not a duck hunter alive who could catch up to that pair. It is such a great and distinctive sound.

6. Bald eagles. For me, a chattering eagle paints a picture in my head of a fish fight. Growing up along the river and spending so much time on the water provided ample opportunity for me to see and hear the eagles looking for fish and that’s the vision I have when my ears hear that sound.

5. Woodcocks. Woodcocks aren’t really vocal birds so you have to tune into them during the springtime during their mating ritual. I’ve recently documented that so no need to rehash it. I guess the reason that the “peeping/bzzzzzzzing” call is so appealing to me is that it’s only available for a short time. Once May hits, the dance is about done for another year.

4. Grouse. The one neat sound that grouse makes is “the lawn mower that won’t start.” That’s actually made by the males “drumming” wings trying to impress the gals. The whooooshwhooooshwhooooshwhooooshwhoooosh can be heard in the spring and on a quiet morning it can be heard from a distance. Our grouse numbers around here have been historically low for a long time and it’s a comfort to hear that sound, knowing that the future will be brighter.

3. Loons. Can there be a better sound to hear when you’re on a lake on a warm evening and a loon calls out and its mate answers?

2. Turkeys. A gobbling turkey is a shout out to winter that it’s time to go. A gobble is so unique and it is the unofficial call of spring.

1. Elk. If you have been lucky enough to witness an up close and personal elk bugle you know how fierce and powerful it is. A long time ago I had an elk bugle at me from about 20 yards away and I swear I thought my hat was going to blow off my head. It is the one sound of the outdoors that moves me the most.

All of the sounds that I have mentioned are special in their own way. I just wish that I could hear them more often than just one week out of the year.

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