It's a deadly combination this year. The calendar marches toward the summer solstice, now just 10 days off, and the sun rises ever earlier, which sets the world outside the bedroom window to stirring. Yet temperatures remain positively comfy. In the back of the mind, all the while, lurk thoughts about the coming electric-rate hike. What to do? Flick off the switch! Throw open the windows! Take in the fresh air! Listen to the birds!
Oh, brother - the birds.
Serious bird-watchers talk about "the dawn chorus," and it's at its fullest-throated right now, because this is when male birds want to show off their stuff, and it happens that this is also the time of year when, in Maryland, first light begins to creep into the sky on the short side of 5 a.m. The bugs don't get moving until the rising sun has fully warmed them up, so in the first hour of the day, the birds, awash in rising testosterone levels, have nothing else to do but sing their little rapid-beating hearts out, both to ward off male competition and to win the affection of the comely little maiden bird down the lane.
It's a racket, is what it is.
Dale Rosselet, of the New Jersey Audubon Society, which has a book out on birdsong, says most people aren't aware of the dawn chorus, or don't recognize it for what it is. But once you do know about it, you can't not hear it. Some might call it "sleep-depriving"; she calls it "markedly amazing." Every bird has its own call, of course. Every robin tries to be heard above every cardinal ("cheer, cheer, cheer," according to Audubon), and every cardinal above every common yellowthroat ("Witch-i-ty, witch-i-ty"), and every yellowthroat above every white-breasted nuthatch ("yank, yank, yank," but nasally). Crows caw and mourning doves mourn and chickadees chickadee-dee-dee.
Finally, around 6, they pipe down and start chasing insects. That's when we would go back to sleep - if it weren't for the dogs just waking up down the street.