An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
of April 25, 2004
written in the woods just south of Natchez, Mississippi, USA


The best moment of Friday's birdwalk came toward the end when for the first time during the walk I entered a broad open area, the Loblolly Field. During the whole walk I'd not heard or seen either a Field Sparrow or a Prairie Warbler, but as soon as I was in the field I heard them both, within seconds of one another.

Anyone familiar with the calls of our birds knows that the songs of these two species are similar in that both calls accelerate in tempo, like a dropped penny circling on a tabletop. Their main difference is that the warbler's call is buzzy, while the sparrow's is crystal clear. You can compare them for yourself. On the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website you can compare the Prairie Warbler's call with that of the Field Sparrow.

So, of all the birdcalls I heard Friday, why did these two species occupying the center of a large field possess such similar, ascending, ethereal calls? And why do these birds' calls approximate what I myself would compose if I were asked to create a short musical phrase conveying the feeling of being a small thing earthbound, looking into the open sky with its expressive clouds, light-charged blue spaces, and its profound openness?

On Friday as I walked across the big field the notion occurred to me that maybe the big field had a message, and that the species known as Field Sparrows and Prairie Warblers -- birds as unrelated to one another as rabbits from mice -- were both evolving toward expressing it. Both species were in the process of reaching for the ultimate perfect timbre and phraseology for expressing the field's message, and already they had evolved to the point where their expressions were similar.

In fact, maybe every spot on Earth has a certain mood, or states a certain truth, and if you are a species evolving there, or if you're a human sensitive to what is going on there, what eventually, inevitably results is a glad, simple, songlike expression conveying that feeling or insight, passing it on to others.

Gloomy, shadowy forest brings forth haunting, fluty thrush calls. The break of dawn on foggy mornings erupts in good-natured turkey gobbling. The perspective of high perches watching over lower worlds is the hawk's cry. Absolute freedom of movement inside the open sky itself is Chimney-Swift twitter, and the sound of being earthbound looking into the open sky -- that's the upward sweeping, tempo-increasing call discovered independently by both the Field Sparrow and Prairie Warbler, in an occasion of convergent spiritual evolution.

If such is the case, it can be important, for it suggests that when finally all our forests, fields and marshes are destroyed, if just one sprig of crabgrass remains on an eroded knoll, and there comes to this place just one child to behold what is there, think about it, love it, and hear what it has to say, then wisdom and hope can be reborn again. Facebook Icon.