June 16, 2021
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At 3:30 in the morning the melodious song of a brown thrasher is heard through our open bedroom window. He is up at the very first glimmer of day, but it’s much too early for us to get up yet. He is the size of robin, with a much longer tail, shy about letting himself be seen, but not shy about letting himself be heard.
At this time of year here in the flatlands of Saskatchewan, there are 17 hours from sunrise to sunset, and 18½ hours when it is light enough to read outside without artificial light. The trees around us are alive with the sound of music. The brown thrasher is heard mostly in morning and evening, other birds from time to time, the wrens are twittering all day long.
We have many birdhouses around our yard. The wrens take possession of most of them, nest in two or three, and fill the rest with twigs. It seems they want to discourage others from moving in next door.
Last Saturday was the school closing program for our school. The rules now allow 150 people to gather outdoors, so we brought our lawn chairs and sat on the church lawn as the children sang and spoke to us. Whenever there was a break in the singing from the children, we could hear a brown thrasher singing from the trees.
The next day we gathered for an outdoor worship service. It was a hot day, so we spread our lawn chairs out under the shade of the poplar trees and the ministers spoke to us from the shade of the church entrance. There was quite a distance between us, but two big speakers brought their voices to us.
That makes me wonder; I can hear the song of a meadowlark sitting on a fence post as I drive by on the highway with the windows closed and the air conditioner going. Why do I have trouble understanding what someone says in church if they don’t speak directly into the microphone?
These plain looking birds are brown thrashers, an adult and a juvenile. They are long-tailed birds, a little bigger than a robin. Brown thrashers are rather shy about letting themselves be seen in public, but they fill the air with beautiful song, especially in the mornings and evenings. My wife saw one this evening, the first sighting this spring. We look forward to a melodious summer.
The male brown thrasher has a repertoire of over 1,000 song types, the largest of any bird. We typically hear it begin by mimicking the song of a robin and then go on for minutes at a time with a steady stream of other songs. It will pause for a moment, then begin again.
We live on an acreage next to a farm yard. Between our houses there is a long shelter belt of poplars and willows. The poplars were planted 100 years ago and have passed their best-before date. Many have died and fallen, coming to rest leaning on other trees or along the ground. Others are half dead, massive, tall trees from which many branches have fallen, yet showing signs of life in the remaining branches. This makes for an unsightly, almost impenetrable thicket between our two houses. But it is ideal bird habitat.