Front Porch Blog

The News from Lazy Horse Hollow

It’s all dogwood and lilacs this time of year up here in the mountains. We’ve been spending a lot of time sitting on the front porch in Todd, NC, almost watching the buds burst into leaves on the sugar maples and poplar, then the buckeye and beech. Sometimes it gets hard to focus on anything but the eerily beautiful song of the wood thrush echoing through the hollow. Other welcome recent arrivals include the ovenbirds, towhees, red-eyed vireos and least flycatchers.

Folks in the mountains have an interesting name for eastern towhees – “Cha-winks” because of the loud, almost shrieky calls they make from deep inside some shrub or hedge. I always think of them as the “Tea bird,” because of their familiar “Drink your Tea” song that punctuates the pre-dawn stillness of the Appalachian forests.

Since the ornithology class I teach at Appalachian State University has recently come to a welcome, if a little sad, conclusion (I was blessed with a wonderful and engaged class of 16 students this spring) just at the time that many of the migrants are coming back to the mountains for the summer, I thought I’d share with Front Porch Blog readers what some of those calls they’re hearing in the woods are.

“Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody…”

That mournful song that’s been echoing through the hollows for last week is the song of the white-throated sparrow. Many of the juveniles have not yet got the song down right. Someday they will proudly burst out the distinctive “Old Sam Peabody” song, but during adolescence, the songs are as awkward as the voice of a 12 year old boy. Often they sound a lot like the “I’m so sad,” song of the white-crowned sparrow. With how perfectly beautiful the weather has been, however, the sentiments of the sparrows, whether they’re white throated or white crowned, are far different than my poor phonetics of their song.

“Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!”

I just heard the wildly emphatic “Teacher!” call of the ovenbird for the first time this morning. I’m certain that ovenbirds have been around for a few weeks down on the lower slopes of the Blue Ridge, but today was the first day that this wonderful bird’s song rang out here in Lazy Horse Hollow. Ovenbirds are warblers, like those yellow warblers with the red streaks on their breasts that have recently returned to grace the abandoned fields and marshy areas of the mountains. They get their name from the Dutch oven-like nests they build from leaf litter on the forest floor.

Well, that’s about all the news there is from Lazy Horse Hollow. Have a great weekend and a productive spring – I’ll get back next week with news of more welcome arrivals of our feathered friends from the south.

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