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Naturalist Notebook

Reviews and journal entries inspired by nature in West Central Illinois.

The Sounds of Nature


When we think of the outdoors and the sounds we hear around us, the first thing that usually comes to mind are the birds and their songs. Of course, we delight in hearing these wonderful songs. However, there is much more out there to hear and learn about. Over the course of time, I have become familiar with some of these other sounds and the habits of the creatures that create them.

Take for instance, last week, when making my daily walk around the property. I came to a large oak near a ravine and began to hear a low sort of hum similar to an engine running. As I got closer to the tree, suddenly I saw the source of this sound. A large swarm of bees was hovering in the upper branches of the tree. It was a dense, twister-like formation and the sound was loud close up. I moved a safe distance away and watched as they moved from the oak to another tree. I had seen this once before and so the sound has now been etched in my mind as a bee swarm.

Another instance of discovering a sound that raises a warning happened to me while I was pulling weeds in my garden one day. I was bent over close to the ground and was aware of a constant buzzing noise much like a bumblebee. When I turned around behind me there was a large bull snake. The buzzing was coming from the snake as it thumped it's tail rapidly on the ground causing the high pitched buzzing. A warning- Do Not Tread On Me! I have since learned that bull snakes act much like rattlesnakes in their habits of defense. They vibrate their tails, coil up and strike in the same fashion when threatened. This often results in the unfortunate demise of this non-venomous snake as people will mistake it for a rattlesnake and kill it. I let them exist around me because they have been a great benefit keeping rodent populations down around my house. I take notice and give them their space.

Some of the smaller mammals that are about also respond to threats with unique sounds. I used to think the chirping and clucking noises of the ground squirrels and chipmunks were birds but now I understand they are the various communications of these creatures. Sometimes these sounds are the first clue that bull snakes are around so they also alert me to be careful where I step!

From time to time I have heard the calls of fawns to their mothers and even the sounds of owls as they watch their young ones take flight for the first time. In one rare instance I had the good luck of seeing coyote pups at play and hear their yips and yowls to each other sounding much like our domestic puppies at play.

I feel very fortunate to have experienced these new sounds around me and hope to continue to explore and learn more of this realm of nature.

Rose Moore – Master Naturalist – July 2018

Today's post was written by Rose Moore. Rose is a Certified Master Naturalist serving Henderson, Knox, McDonough & Warren Counties. She enjoys exploring the natural world around her and recording the experiences in art and writing.


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