Moonlight shatters through the trees casting silvery patches on the forest floor before me like a stream. The cool night air envelopes me as memories of the heat and humidity of daylight evaporate.
Familiar voices of night insects and tree frogs serenade me as I melt into the shadows and the stress, and strain of daily life filters out through every pore. A barred owl softly calls out his invitation for a meal, “Whoo cooks for you, Whoo-o cooks for you-all?” and the pitch of the insects intensifies as if waiting for a response. The forest is calling me home, encouraging me to relax, and singing just for me.
Friends were sharing that they wish it would hurry and cool off so they could enjoy their walks again. With the heat being so intense this summer, they have almost given up the outdoors. Walks in the woods, prairies, even just outside their home have ended.
Summer is one of the best times to venture outside at dusk, or dark and experience nature at night. The heat of the sun is gone and a whole new world emerges. This is when nocturnal animals come out; if we do not venture out at this time, too, we miss all the wonders they bring. You can hear night insects, tree frogs, and birds such as owls, woodcock and nighthawks in a variety of different places, many right in your own backyard.
Woodcocks are forest birds with long, thin bills for probing earthworms. They are very secretive, heavily camouflaged, ground-nesting birds. The few I have seen, I have almost stepped on before they flew up right in front of me scaring me nearly to death! They have a long, eventful courtship in the spring which many folks call a “timberdoodle dance.” Hence, a woodcock’s nickname is “timberdoodle.”
Nighthawks fly near the tall overhead lights at shopping malls and stadiums calling, “peent” in search for insects. They are common in woods and fields, and have adapted to city streets and byways.
Both of these birds can be seen at dusk, or in the bright lights at night. But, if you want to hear the voice of the owl, you must come to his house at night – that means to the forest.
In this part of the Midwest, barred, screech, and great horned owls can be heard at night, and their voices are very distinct. While the barred owl asks who is cooking dinner, the great horned owl asks – who, who – who, who – whooo. The small screech owl has an eerie whinny that is long, high-pitched and drawn out.
Amidst these very dramatic voices is the backdrop of insect songs and the chanting of gray tree frogs. The final cantata is melodic masterpiece enough to calm the most frazzled nerves and soothe weary souls.
While most people enjoy nature and the outdoors during the daytime, a walk in the cool night air listening to the soothing musical voices is the perfect way to end a hot day. Happy Trails!
You can reach Lynn at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net, or follow her on Instagram at TheGreenSpaceKC.