“Br-r-r!” I shivered. “This is cold!” According to the calendar, it was April, but the crisp dawn air felt like February.


I sauntered slowly toward the woods, taking in the breathtaking scene of budding tree branches silhouetted against a golden yellow sunrise. Some friendly stars still twinkled faintly high overhead.

Tree leaves


When I entered the forest, I found it still too dark to find my way very well. Stumbling to the nearest fallen tree, I seated myself and listened.


Dozens of plump, saucy, orange-breasted robins caroled from perches in trees and bushes everywhere. High, thin, sweetly whistled notes of White-throated Sparrows and the cheery whistles and sharp “tik!” calls of several cardinals drifted through the wood. An Eastern Phoebe awoke and joined the chorus. When an Eastern Towhee burst into a merry “Drink your tea!” I smiled in delight; it was the first time I’d heard one this spring.


“Tea-kettle!” a Carolina Wren trilled, and a Tufted Titmouse crooned a clear “Peter, Peter!”
Then for a while there were no new additions to the forest symphony. I could feel the cold seeping into my bones, and the thoughts of a cozy house and a fuzzy blanket were tempting.
Suddenly I straightened in surprise. Rich and mellow, the limpid warble floated from the underbrush quite close to my uncomfortable log seat.

Fox Sparrow
Fox Sparrow. Photo © Kevin Shank


I listened in puzzled wonder. The first notes of the song reminded me of an oriole, but they were followed by several slightly buzzy, sparrow-like notes. What was it?

I was totally stumped. I’d never heard a bird song like it before; of that much I was certain.
Again the mystic melody sounded close to me, and I hoped I could get a view of the feathered singer. Alas, the next time I heard it, the warble was much farther away.


Well, if I sit here much longer, I’ll freeze to this ancient log, I thought with a shiver, realizing how chilled I was. Standing up rather stiffly, I trudged toward the house.

After shedding my coat and boots, I armed myself with several bird books, including one that played short recordings of bird songs. Now, if I could just figure out who the mysterious musician was.


At last I came to the conclusion that I had heard a Fox Sparrow. I have no proof, and I’m not quite certain that’s what it was. According to the bird book, they are rare in our area.
However, no matter what it was, that feathered songster made my day. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to listen to its song.