Sep 14 2009
Yesterday morning I stepped out on the front porch just after 6:00am to check the weather. It was my first morning home from Maine and I was a little surprised that I didn’t need a jacket and the sun hadn’t come up yet. What was I thinking! Maine is certainly colder and it’s so far east that the sun rises there 45 minutes earlier than it does in Pittsburgh. I had nearly an hour to wait for dawn.
As I gazed at the waning moon I heard a sound like spring peepers coming from above. I knew the distinct solo “peeps” were the nocturnal flight calls of migrating thrushes, but which ones?
The pre-dawn sky was clear with a light wind from the north. The birds kept coming with hardly a pause. I rushed indoors to get my binoculars but it was too dark to see the birds. In my excitement I forgot to count the sounds so all I can tell you is that they passed by steadily for 20 minutes. My guess is there were several hundred of them.
Later indoors, I checked my birdsong CDs and the Internet for samples of nocturnal flight calls. I couldn’t find any audio examples – only voice-prints – but I looked through descriptions of various thrushes’ calls and found this at the All About Birds description of the Swainson’s thrush: “Nocturnal flight call a “peep” similar to a single note from a spring peeper frog.”
So that’s who they were.
I heard Swainson’s thrushes migrating this morning as well. I wish I could have seen them.
(photo by Chuck Tague)