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An Ear Attuned To Robins

The early-morning sun filled the kitchen, and I could hear the birds at the feeder outside the window. My husband came into the room towel-drying his hair and with a smile announced, "I hear a robin." Then he proceeded to the window to spy the red-breasted bird in our crabapple tree. I looked, too, listening to the robin's song and taking note of the cadence and pitch. My husband, heading off to get ready for work, chuckled, "A robin! Spring must be right around the corner."

Many times I had brought out our field guide to birds and tried to put together the calls described with the feathered visitors to our yard. I was only successful in identifying them if I saw the bird and matched it to the picture. I had been content with the chatter and chirp of the birds without knowing who is who until my husband began saying, "Listen! That's a...."

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My husband, with his musician's ear, has tried to educate me from the start. He wanted me to share in his ability to hear the birds' distinctive voices. He wanted me to know the excitement of recognizing their songs and then searching to discover them on their perches. Despite his coaching, I did not have much success, but I did not give up. I kept trying to hear the differences, to match the notes to the color, shape, and name.

Just as the sun was setting one evening, the horizon luminous with the sun's last salute to the day, I heard it. We were reading the newspaper, and I hesitantly asked, "Is that a robin I hear?" My husband looked up from his paper, smiling, and said, "Yes, that's a robin."

I quickly went to the front window and looked toward the distinctive melody coming from the boxwood hedge at the edge of the yard. A flutter of wings caught my eye, and I saw a robin fly off. Smiling to myself I whispered, "I heard a robin."

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