Vernal pool at dusk
Dusk at Unionville
Dusk at Unionville [3:02 · download]

 

It’s about 7pm at the end of a mild spring day in Maine. At a muddy vernal pool, the spring peepers are just beginning to warm up for a night of song and courtship. In the nearby woods, the reclusive hermit thrush settles in for the night. An unseen woodpecker signals from across an open field. A quarter mile away, standing somewhere in the tall reeds on the shore of nearby Tunk Stream, an American bittern issues its unique call which, from this distance, resembles the ker-plunk of a smooth pebble dropped into a pond.

It seems somehow fitting that these, some of nature’s most gifted songmakers, are also its most reclusive. A full-blown peeper chorus can be deafening, yet each individual frog hides so artfully, pressed tight against an inconspicuous low-hanging branch or to the damp underside of a curled leaf. The bittern stands motionless in the marsh, its camouflaged head pointed skyward, looking like just another drab stalk of reed. And the thrush, whose ethereal trill leads one naturally to lift one’s eyes upward, lives out most of its life poking quietly about the leaf-litter at the forest floor.