The crack of dawn, a new spring day is awakening. Eager voices greet the first faint light with excited anticipation. It's time to let the world know that love is in the air by singing a spring song. The first "voice of romance" heard may be that of a male robin. He is always eager to sing his spring song and often starts an hour or more before first light.
As the early dawn slowly appears, a bright red male cardinal whistles from the edge of the woods. Each morning the cardinals are the first birds to show up at the bird feeders and also are the last to leave at the end of the day. The male cardinal's song "wheat, wheat, wheat, what cheer, what cheer, what cheer" may be the loudest songbird to be heard.
Then from the other end of the dark pasture comes the courtship call of another early riser, a tom turkey. "Gobble, gobble, gobble!" He was close but it's still too dark to make him out. I picture him in my mind, strutting around in the short grass of the pasture with his huge tail feathers, fanned out behind him. His body feathers are all ruffled up and his big wings droop at his sides. "Gobble, gobble, gobble," another tom joins in and together they gobble together to attract a hen.
I reflect on how lucky I am to be able to hear the call of a wild tom turkey. They were reintroduced to southwest Wisconsin about 25 years ago and have made a spectacular return. These days, the courtship of these magnificent birds can be heard and seen throughout the state.
I can remember when the gobble of a wild turkey was never heard here. Now I eagerly look forward to hearing the first one each spring.
As a faint light appears over the barn, a phoebe, who has spent the night under the eve, is now perched on a high line and sings his name over and over, "phoebe, phoebe, phoebe, phoebe."
"Cock-cock", comes the bold call of a rooster pheasant from down in the marsh. He too calls a "wake up call" to the hens in the area.
From further down the river, a pair of sandhill cranes greet the new day with their trumpeting courtship calls. "Garoo-oo-oo-oo, garoo-oo- oo." The pair of 4 foot tall cranes flap their 7 foot wings and dance to the start of a new day. Viewed by many as nature's most spectacular bird dance, the spring dance of the sandhill cranes is worth getting up early to see.
By the time it's light enough to see across the valley, there are singing birds everywhere. It's the time of day when they all seem to be singing at once. Everyone wants to be heard as the day begins. A song sparrow sings his lovely song from a bough in the pines. "Maids! maids! maids! Hang up your teakettle-ettle-ettle."
The clear melodic call of a white- throated sparrow comes from under the pines, "old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody."
A male red-winged blackbird joins in with the other bird songs coming from the marsh. "oolong tea." They puff out all their feathers and call out from their perches on the tops of cattails.
A fat male meadowlark tilts his head back and shoves out his bright yellow breast as he sings. "Spring- of-the-year." His sweet voice across the pastures is drowned out by the persistent call of a killdeer flying overhead - "killdeer! killdeer! killdeer!"
There's a lot to hear on an early spring morning. It's the very best time to take a walk down nature's trail.
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