Thank goodness the birds are singing

Xavier use

By Xavier Kataquapit

Every morning for a few weeks now I am waking up to the sound of Pee-Nay-Sheesh (small birds) singing outside my window. Mostly the singing is coming from the Tree Swallows flying frantically around in what seems like circles.

I never learned the Cree name for this pretty little bird, because they are rare to see on the James Bay coast. At this time of year, they are either mating or challenging each other for the ownership of the birdhouse I constructed a few years ago and perched on the garage roof. They are up at the crack of dawn, which of course means my mornings now start quite early.

Several weeks ago, I also heard for a brief time the familiar honking of Niska (Canada Geese) on a stop over in the field behind my home while on their long flight north to James Bay. That sound has a lot of meaning to me and brings back so many memories of time on the land harvesting Niska in the Spring.

My neighbours, the Swallows, have a very shrill chirping sound that is rather like an alarm clock. They are amazing birds in that they are found in many parts of the world, and they migrate up north to my area in the Spring and leave in late Summer or early Autumn.

They survive on insects and are keen hunters. I am all for their need to hunt so many pesky insects that invade my patio in the summer. I am amazed at their flying ability as they are like little jetfighters and can spin around in the air at great speed and swoop inches from me during their hunt.

These Swallows are likely returning to the same nest area every year, so I guess the same family has been coming back to the birdhouse for the past five years or so. Considering it took us humans such a long time to develop technology for mapping and navigation it is awe inspiring to realize that these small birds have a built-in global mapping system. Their instinct allows them to fly on a route every year to the south when it gets cold and then return to us in the spring when things warm up again in the north.

Of course, the Kah-kah-koo (Raven) are here up north all winter and they are tough birds. I have seen them all over the north and sometimes at minus-40 degrees Celsius as they fly casually by seeming not bothered at all by the freezing temperatures. They don’t really sing but make all kinds of sounds and sometimes seem like they are mimicking other creatures. My partner and his Irish family refer to them as black turkeys.

I enjoy the warble like song of the Pee-peesh-cheh-oo (Robin) that are returning now and that adds to the bird music around my home. Red Wing Blackbirds are another bird that is relatively new to me as we didn’t see much of them up north. They are very cool looking and are dabbed with a splash of red on their black bodies and wings. They have a really soothing warble and is a song anyone can love.

Black Birds and Crows spend a lot of time on the block getting into mischief. They seem to be the bad boys of the bird species and are forever bothering every other species of bird in the area. They often seem menacing and full of trouble. More like the Ravens they are not easily intimidated and a little bratty.

Once in a while I am fortunate to hear the cry of the Mah-kwa (Loon) and that sound is very haunting to me and goes well with a bird that has a history that spans thousands of years to prehistoric times. Loons prefer to be near water and they are much better at swimming and diving than they are at flying or walking on land. Amazingly, they can live to be 20 to 30 years of age. Waking with the cry of the Mah-kwa near a lake or river is a feeling that is very special.

My Spring concerts are not only about birds. For the past few days, I have noticed that the Ah-nee-kish (frogs), especially the Peepers are singing and performing every evening. It’s no wonder we Cree refer to this month as Aneekee peesim (the Frog Moon). This is a sound that I identify with the first warm Spring nights as a teen hanging with my friends on the streets of Attawapiskat surrounded by choirs of Peepers. This is a very comforting sound to me.

The sounds of nature continue to bring us peace and comfort all over the world, even in the midst of wars in the Ukraine and Gaza and the threat of climate change which is impacting people all over Mother Earth. Even with all the turmoil and anxiety in our world, thank goodness the birds are singing.