Category Archives: Bird Song

Break Out The Rake

Fall!  And except for the lack of rain, the weather has been glorious.  Walk through the neighborhood and treat your visual senses to the spectacular color of our trees.

But once those leaves are on the ground, you’ll experience another sensory overload: the constant din of leaf blowers.  Six days a week, at all times of the day, there is the racket of a leaf blower to be heard somewhere in the neighborhood.  Just listen to this example (you might want to turn down the volume).

Here’s our pitch to reduce the auditory assault of these machines and use a rake instead.  It’s great exercise and also helps out wildlife, trees and plants.  Plus, nothing is more fun than playing in a pile of beautiful fall leaves!

Consider these points:

  • While a layer of leaves is not good for lawns, other plants and trees will thrive with undisturbed leaf litter.  If the leaves are removed, so are the nutrients that feed the plant. Lawns also benefit from a light layer of chopped leaves (the mulch setting on most lawn mowers).
  • Many beneficial insects make their home in leaf litter [1]
  • Leaf blowers don’t just blow away leaves, but they blow away topsoil as well.   They also fill the air with contaminates including toxic chemicals (used by some lawn services), allergens, molds and other things better left undisturbed. [2]
  • Leaf blowers were not invented to remove leaves, but as crop dusters.  In other words, they are a solution that went searching for a problem.  [2]
  • Leaf blowers interfere with animals’ ability to communicate with each other.  This makes it difficult to find mates, hunt and avoid predators. [3]

Now, without a leaf blower around, you can hear this:

Break out the rake.


References and Additional Information

[1]  Smithsonian:  Where Do Insects Go in the Winter?
[2]  Dr. Weil:  Ban Leafblowers
[3]  Clive Thompson: How Man-Made Noise May Be Altering Earth’s Ecology


Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis
Peachtree Park, Atlanta, GA - July, 2016

Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis

Mid-day today we heard the insistent begging call of a juvenile hawk.  It was so loud and went on so long, we thought something might be wrong, but it turns out he was just hungry!    We finally spotted him in a large pine next door.  The parent was close by and buzzed us on our deck.

We naturally assumed he was a Cooper’s, having just watched a brood fledge across the street.   We sent pictures to our neighborhood ornithologist expert and friend.  Surprise – a Red-tailed Hawk!   This is great news because it means Red-tails have successfully nested here.

Look up and check the mature pines in our neighborhood for this young Red-tailed Hawk family.

The Dawn Chorus

There’s one in your yard every morning.  As birds wake up they sing to greet the new day.  We first read about this in a book called What The Robin Knows by Jon Young.

In Atlanta this time of year the dawn chorus begins around 5:45 a.m. and lasts for about a half an hour.  It’s quite a performance, and is even louder and more robust earlier in the spring when the birds are either defending a breeding territory or trying to attract a mate. [4]

There’s an International Dawn Chorus Day (of course there is) sponsored by an IDCD organization.  It started in the 1980’s in the UK and has spread to be a world wide event.  We’re a little late telling you about this, since the one closest to us was held this year on May 1st in the Congaree National Park near Columbia, South Carolina.  Put it on your calendar for next year.

The video below of the dawn chorus was recorded this morning over the span of 20 minutes.   About 20 seconds into it, you can see and hear a flock of crows headed for breakfast.

This next video was recorded almost two months ago on April 4th.  Since it’s earlier in the spring and mating season and migration are in full swing, it’s a bit louder.

[1]  What the Robin Knows – Jon Young
[2]  IDCD
[4]  Congaree National Park
[3]  Wikipedia: Dawn Chorus (birds)

Who Cooks for You?

Barred Owl - Strix varia Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge - November, 2006

Barred Owl – Strix varia
photo taken in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in 2006

That’s the way we remember one of the calls of the Barred Owl – who_who who_whoooo (who cooks for you).

We’ve been hearing them in our yard and the yards adjoining this spring and summer.  Occasionally we’ll be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of two or three moving around in the pines at dusk.  At least two neighbors have reported that they have them nesting in their back yards.  One says they have been in residence for at least eight years.

Two nights ago at 2:00 a.m. we were awakened to a sound like the caterwauling of a howler monkey.  There were at least two talking back and forth.   Based on Cornell’s All About Birds site, we think this is a mated pair.

I went outside to get a recording and they were moving all around sometimes sounding only 15 or 20 feet away.  But since they are masters at stealth mode, I could neither see them nor hear them fly.  This went on for almost an hour.

Even though we rarely see these birds, we love hearing them at night.  And being such good nighttime hunters they help keep the rodent population in check.  We also have the Great Horned Owl and Eastern Screech-Owl here.  We’ll talk about them in a future post.