Twilight melody

When the wood thrush sings, the world listens.




2 minute read

An okay image I never thought I’d get, my first wood thrush photo after five springs living in their home habitat. Its voice is its most distinctive trait. (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)

As daylight fades, the evening chorus crescendos.

A riot of song sallies forth from every tree. There are robins, catbirds, phoebes, chickadees, orioles, and many more I don’t recognize. They sing with and over each other, declaring their existence, virility, and beauty.

Sometimes in the quiet pauses, I can hear a wood thrush, its high notes easily drowned out by other voices.

Everything is glorious. As the sun sets through the woods, the exuberance of a spring day starts to slow. The evening is warm and still, the leaves are full and fresh, and babies are being born and raised all around.

The daylight dims another 10 percent perhaps, and the chorus begins to fade.

Except the wood thrush. He was only warming up while the others were raising their ruckus. His song deserves to be heard. It is clear and liquid like water gushing from a spring at the foot of a bluff, rushing down sandstone to the river.

The bird is a good neighbor.

In the height of nesting and breeding season, the wood thrush sometimes sings all day. But he performs his improvised aria, displays his mastery, during the last minutes of light. When the woods are quiet, he sings without interruption, repeating variations on his magical melody.

Everything else in this densely-populated forest listens. The wood thrush sings the young of many species off to sleep.

Then it is nearly dark, and the bird pauses. It’s the first break of any length in 10 minutes. He quickly sings again, but then the pauses become more frequent, and longer.

Twenty-five minutes after sunset, he sings only sporadically. Then, without warning, in the last couple minutes of twilight, the bird falls silent.

The world spins back toward the sun, and soon he’ll sound the morning.

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2 responses to “Twilight melody”

  1. Lee Lewis Avatar
    Lee Lewis

    I have a cabin in Pine County and on the edge of the wood thrush’s breeding range. They are the star thrush songster through much of the neotropical migration. But, as in most years and as the migratory season comes to a close, the wood thrush song fades and the veery’s ascends. I assume it has to do with the breeding range of both species, their arrival times, as well as the habitat in which the cabin sits. On an evening several years ago, probably a little earlier in the year while the hermit thrush was still around, I heard the singing of wood thrush, veery and hermit thrush. It was a sublime moment.

    1. Greg Seitz Avatar

      Lee – Thanks, that does indeed some sublime. I actually got a photo of a veery in our yard this spring, but we never hear them. I believe one year I heard one feeble call during migration. But today I was hiking at William O’Brien State Park and heard at least one veery repeatedly. That was a treat. Thanks again for the comment. Greg


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Twilight melody