Once or twice a year I go out to Cumberland County to work cows with my three favorite men: my husband, my father-in-law, and my brother-in-law. My role is sort of tertiary. I fill syringes with approved vaccines and write numbers on ear tags. Sometimes, I get to operate the head gate!
The work starts early while birds are still foraging, enjoying the cool of the day. Always, always, always I hear a meadowlark out there in the field. And other birds, too, of course. Mockers, cardinals, blue birds, goldfinches, wrens.
I recognize the meadowlark by its song that flows like this sentence: spring of the yeaaaar. Or in morse code: short-short-short-long. Get it?
Take a listen:
Meadowlark song[Courtesy of Florida Museum of Natural History]
I count my blessings that I can hear the meadowlark because there are some bird songs that are too high or too low for my declining ears to detect. I mean I’m only 46, too young to complain of age-related hearing loss, so I’ll just be grateful that the meadowlark sings in a mid-range. I can also still hear the gold finch: chip-chip-potato chip, but that’s a post for another day!
Hearing the meadowlark sing is one my favorite things about Cumberland; I rarely hear or see one in Richmond. Meadowlarks and other grassland birds are declining in population because of loss of open fields due to development and sprawl. In fact, since 1967 the meadowlark population has declined by seventy-three percent.
One thing we all can do to help is to count and report on the birds we see at home, at work, on the farm, in our communities. This is citizen-science: regular folks observing the natural world. When we all report the birds we see, our combined data works together for the greater good.
Learn more about other common birds on the decline and how citizen-science makes a difference: