“Somewhere, always, the sun is rising, and somewhere, always, the birds are singing.”
I imagine the clock on my wall transcending local time and whisking me away to surf the dawn chorus around the globe, and seasonally from the northern hemisphere to the southern and then back again. As a reviewer noted, that quote from The Singing Life of Birds is “a clear philosophy and the best summation of Kroodsma’s outlook on life. In his world the sun is always shining and the birds are always singing. Thank God he’s invited us to join him on his journey.”
I haven’t thought much about a “philosophy of life,” but birdsong certainly does clear my head. Nothing beats waiting in the predawn darkness for the dawn chorus with first light racing toward me at a clip of nearly 1000 miles per hour, the 30 to 45 minutes of energized song arriving and then passing on, heading west, only to return again 24 hours later. Almost as good is sitting at my desk, dissecting a morning’s recordings, trying to understand what a bird had on its mind in one situation or another. Birdsong makes me happy.
As the reviewer wrote, I would be delighted if you’d join me on the journey—consider this website as a friendly invitation. You could start by listening to one of my Archived Interviews, such as National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross or NPR’s and National Geographic’s Radio Expeditions. Or check out how to listen with both your ears and your eyes (Seeing bird sounds), by seeing musical scores of birdsong dance before your eyes as you listen. Or try recording birds (How to record birds)—aiming a good microphone at a singing bird, the songs isolated in the headphones over your ears, just you and the singing bird in that moment—that’s a special place to be. I elaborate on the special places where birdsong has taken me in my Books for the General Public, The Singing Life of Birds, The Backyard Birdsong Guides, Birdsong by the Seasons, and Listening to a Continent Sing. Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Check out the reviews of these books and see where these books might take you.
Above all, listen. Slow down. Pull up a chair. Hear the nuances of how the most common and familiar birds around you are singing . . . a robin . . . a chickadee . . . a sparrow . . . Identify who is singing, if you can, but more importantly try to crawl inside the mind of this singing bird, coming as close as you can to understand what it is like to be the bird itself. Spend an hour or an entire morning with one singing bird as you get to know him, just as you would with any human friend. Life will be all the richer for it.