Ovenbird © Lang Elliott Dawn chorus featuring Ovenbird, Black-capped Chickadee and American Robin (and more). 5:20am, 5 May 2016. Along road above Shindagin Hollow. © Lang Elliott. This is a 3D binaural soundscape; please wear headphones for optimal immersion.

I rose at 4am this morning so that I could be present in the forest when the first bird sang. I drove to a location in the hills above Shindagin Hollow and set my soundscape microphone next to the road. Water trickled softly down a drainage ditch. Otherwise it was completely quiet.

The “first bird,” unsurprisingly, turned out to be a distant American Robin, singing his praise for the new day precisely at 5:12am. Over the next few minutes, several other robins joined-in to produce a gentle and continuous backdrop of whistled songs.

Robins were not my target, however. I was waiting to record a ground-nesting wood-warbler that has been around for several days. At 5:24am, the first one made it’s presence known with a loud and ringing teacher–Teacher–TEACHER–TEACHER. Hallelujah, a male Ovenbird, sounding off from a horizontal mid-story branch nearby. Soon others were singing as well, along with a Black-capped Chickadee piping his ever-so-sweet fee-bee-eee.

The above recording features a five-minute segment where the Ovenbirds and the chickadee are going strong. I find it satisfying to listen-to, although I must admit that the Ovenbird’s song is not exactly “beautiful,” at least in the normal sense of the word. In fact, it can be rather jarring, especially when heard up close. Still, the male Ovenbird and his bright crescendo song is absolutely worthy of our celebration, so I’ve decided to do just that, right here and now!

Are you aware that Robert Frost actually wrote a poem about the Ovenbird?:

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.

excerpt from: THE OVEN BIRD by Robert Frost

There is some confusion among scholars over what Frost meant by the line “Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.” My belief is that Frost was able to detect echos of the ovenbird’s songs reflecting off the trunks (which seems plausible considering how loud the songs can be at close range). Thus, the Ovenbird gives voice to the trees. I’m not sure, however, why he added the word “again” at the end … perhaps because a woodpecker “sounded” a tree (or two) a few moments before an Ovenbird “sounded” them again with his song?

Ovenbird nest © Marie Readp.s. You may wonder why they call this species the “Oven” bird. Well, because its ground nest (made of dead leaves, grasses, stems, and bark) is dome-shaped with a side entrance, like an outdoor clay oven!

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