The amount of times that I have been woken up by an orchestra of birds singing passionately is uncountable. Whether it would be in my home country or during one of my travels to America, Africa or a different part of Europe, it remains fascinating to discover new tunes and to recognise familiar ones which remind me of home. I am not a bird-expert. I recognise the call of starlings, robins, blackbirds, great and blue tits, wrens, woodpeckers, finches, owls, cranes, birds of prey and a few more obvious ones like geese, seagulls etc. Add maybe 25 more and that is about it.
Writing at sunset in a lost hut in Sweden on a mountain top, it is the most peculiar call that drags me outside, geared up with my camera to find out which animal sounds makes me so curious. Getting closer to the source, a big bird, the size of a chicken, flies away clumsily to land about 50 metres further in the top of a tall pine tree. The sound continues as this bird is not the only one around. I find myself surrounded by black grouses in the middle of their mating ritual, making these sounds to impress the females. A rare and beautiful encounter to witness as these birds are endangered in Europe, apart from Sweden where their number increases and Norway and Italy where their population seems to be stable. These beautiful black birds are extinct in Denmark, Hungary, Luxembourg and sadly enough will be extinct in Belgium and the Netherlands soon (just 2 cocks and a few hens left), as the new born chickens die of starvation within a week due to the lack of insects because of nitrogen contamination from farms. On top of that, their habitat is decreasing and their protection is no longer a political topic. Feared is the extinction of the skylark in the countries where the legendary black grouse died out since the skylark lives in similar habitats and their number is decreasing rapidly. I was lucky enough to spot a few of them as hearing their call makes me smile, reminding me off spring days in my childhood in the Netherlands.
Coming back from a hike, another sounds puzzles me for quite some time before I can put my finger on what it is: a sort of low frequency phone ring, mixed with noise of electric cables in the wind… As unbelievable as it is, it turns out to be a bird flying up and diving down, and up again, and down again, making this noise with its tail feathers. The snipe is a striped bird with a long beak living close to water, and this is how it attracts females. We spot many more snipes during our hikes, but never hear this peculiar sounds again.
While hiking along the Höga Kusten, some noisy seagulls attract my attention. Birds often call for a reason. An enormous white tailed eagle is trying to make its way back to shore with a freshly caught fish. It is chased by hungry and greedy seagulls trying to rob it from its prey. With its big beak and characteristic long finger wings with a span of two metres, it proudly floats through the air, leaving the seagulls in its wake.
Focussing on sounds while being out in nature has again provided me with many special encounters. I keep being fascinated by nature and it is by witnessing its beauty in animal behaviours that I learn about the uncountable wonders mother Earth has in store. May many more follow all around the globe!
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