When birds return after winters absence, the trees become alive with joyful sounds. After the silence of winter, broken only by the course cawing of a crow or two, the trilling lilt of songbirds lifts my heart. I know they are claiming territory, and it is serious business on their part, yet that knowledge doesn’t lessen my joy and delight any one bit.

I know the names of very few birds and can recognize the calls of even less, but that does not matter. I am pleased when I can identify a bird or its call, but my enjoyment of the others is not lessened.

In spring trees become alive with joyful sounds and flitting bits of color here and there and there. It’s such a wonderful contrast to winter’s silence. That silence was welcomed at the time. That silence replaced the whir of insects and, most especially, the shrieking of cicadas which increased with summer’s heat.

Cicadas have life cycles of varying lengths, some of two to five years, others seventeen year cycles. When those cycles coincide, the sounds are tremendous – and last all night! The first hard freeze silences them, and that silence is wonderfully welcomed. Songbirds return is an enchanting way to break that silence.

Some people like to mimic the song of a bird, not realizing how cruel that is to the bird. An answering song means, to the bird, that an intruder is too near. If the mimic is well done, the bird won’t realize the intruder is human and not really intruding on its territory at all. I was once such an intruder.

It was a dark moonless night. I was out in the country away from other humans. An owl called from not too far away. I decided to try to mimic it. I figured an owl’s call was not as complicated as the call of a songbird. I was right.

After a couple of attempts, I had the sound down. The owl began to respond to my response. After several exchanges, I began to hear a note of frustration in the owl’s call. I ignored that (ego-centered human that I was) and continued to show off. I was an intruder on the owl’s territory and definitely a threat. Then that owl let loose a stream of owl-talk in sounds that I’d NEVER heard before, and I’d been listening to owls for decades! In tone and pitch and volume, that owl was evidently angry.

I decided to take the warning seriously. I knew the owl could see better in the pitch black dark than I could. I did not want the owl to swoop to my face to drive me away. I would not be able to see it until it was truly in my face, then it would be too late to avoid. In consideration and, finally, respect for the owl, I stopt and spoke human to it. I wanted the owl to know I was still present, but not a threat to its territory.

When I stopt owl-talk, the owl also stopt. Peace returned to the woods. A short while later, I went home.

I wonder what tales that owl told about the dangerous threat it had driven away to save the day… or – night!

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