Even though I am not a fan of the shorter days that accompany fall and winter, I do enjoy spending time outside at dusk during this time of year. It's a nice way to wrap up the day, and it really quiets my mind. As with the gold-hued light that shows itself at dawn and dusk during this season, there is a special quality to the sounds at this time of year. It's hard to explain, but the difference is tangible in my mind. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that there is less vegetation around to dampen the sound. In the spring, birders have the dawn chorus to look forward to. In the fall and winter, I look forward to the evening symphony.
The players in this pastoral symphony are few, but the lack of diversity is made up for by the richness of the sound. At dusk the Cardinals and White-throated Sparrows come out to play. The Cardinals announce their presence with heavy wing beats, and their vrit vrit call that reminds me so much of the sound of corduroy pant legs rubbing together. The sparrows sing out their high chip note, and make such a racket as they dart in and out of the brush and leaf piles on the ground. Polite dinner conversation among friends is how I like to think of it. At present, I still await the sweet callings of the Towhee, saying it's name and foraging among the leaf litter with it's odd but effective hop-back style of scratching the ground.
From time to time a Barred Owl will let out out a bellowing "WHOOOOOOawwwwl" from deep in the woods. I try to call it in with my meager imitation of the owl's signature song of "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you alllll," but my attempts are usually met with silence. I've got to figure out how to make my voice more resonant when I do that one.
If I'm lucky, a flock of Canada Geese sounds off in the distance, no doubt heading to a pond or plowed corn field in search of their evening meal. If I'm really lucky, the flock flies right overhead and I hear the whistle of their wings while they honk alternately amongst themselves.
The air is crisp and clean, and a breeze causes the rattling of dry beech leaves which cling so tenaciously to their branches. Nature's own version of wind chimes, perhaps? Off in the neighboring valleys, cows moo and dogs bark. The dull hum of traffic drones softly from the not-so-distant highway. The report of a shotgun echos from hilltop to hilltop, sometimes a signal of target practice, other times telling of a hunt in progress.
And sometimes, briefly, there is quiet and stillness. I breathe it in deeply, happy to be an audience of one to it all. And the cost of admission? Free.