Woodthrush – USF&W photo

This morning when I had coffee on my deck I did not hear the hooded warbler that nests in the tangles in the young woods below my yard. I did not hear a northern parula singing from the tops of the tulip poplars. There was no buzzy black-throated blue song emanating from the rhododendrons along the little creek. I did not hear a single raspy “chickbuuurrrr” anywhere in the forest. There were no schizoid red-eyed vireos talking to themselves as they bounced from tree to tree and no wood thrushes graced the early morning with their sweet flute song.

It’s hard to believe but since August billions (that’s with a b) of Neotropical migrants representing more than 330 species have left their nesting grounds in North America for wintering grounds in Central and South America. Researchers at the Yucatan Peninsula Partnership in conjunction with the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture program estimated that as many a 1.5 billion Neotropical migrants pass through the peninsula each fall as they migrate from North America.

Researchers estimate that around 70 percent of the birds that nest in Southern Appalachian forests are Neotropical Migrants. When they are gone things are sure a lot quieter. Now the chickadees, titmice and nuthatches at my feeder this morning were chattering away and one lonely Carolina wren cut loose once or twice with a somewhat half-hearted attempt at song. But it doesn’t come close to that spring and summer early morning choir composed of hooded warbler, black-throated green, black-throated blue, northern parula, black-and-white, scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, wood thrush, ovenbird, blue-headed vireo and red-eyed vireo that I can usually pick out by the time I finish my early morning coffee.

Of course this is not to say that winter birding is boring. Purple finches and pine siskins are sure to make an appearance at my feeders and who knows, we may even get lucky one winter soon and see an irruption of evening grosbeaks, though I don’t think I’ve had any since 1999. And Lake Junaluska will be strutting its stuff as fronts bring different waterfowl throughout the winter.

So, I’ll just enjoy my coffee in solitude for a few short months and sweeten it with anticipation of next April.


The Sounds of Silence

         With apologies to Simon & Garfunkel

Goodbye wood thrush my old friend

You’ll have to wait to sing again

Because a season softly creeping

Has appeared while I was sleeping

And that season full of cold n wind and rain

Will remain

Within the sound of silence


Drinking my morning coffee all alone

Missing that flute-like song

From the woods that have grown so bare

Where no song now fills the air

And my ears and heart can no longer hear

That liquid voice that isn’t here

It touched the sound of silence


And as the dawn began to grow

The missing songs were all around

Parulas and tanagers were missing

No hint of grosbeaks or buntings

The only thing that blared

Was just the sound of silence


Oh, said I, I do not know

Cause silence with the winter grows

Can I wait till spring to hear you

I’ll have to wait till spring to hear you

But my words like silent raindrops fell

And echoed

In the woods of silence


But we believers must believe

Winter came and it will leave

It will go with Spring’s warming

It will go with leaves forming

And the forests will fill again with joyous sound

They will abound

And quench the sounds of silence.