Week of November 27, 2022 – December 3, 2022
by Bridget Jones, Environmental Educator
In late fall, the forest seems to settle into a deeper level of silence. Buzzing and chirping insects have vanished and many animals are moving into dens for the winter. This past week, I took a walk through Baltimore Woods on a particularly quiet day. Without the usual backdrop of noise and activity, my attention focused on the few sounds that remained.
Sound travels farther on cold days. As sound waves bounce off warm air masses sitting above colder air, they are refracted back towards the ground. Thanks to this phenomenon, a distant chase between crows and a Red-tailed Hawk was brought to my attention by the sounds of angry cawing. Faint tapping from above revealed a Red-bellied Woodpecker hard at work excavating a dead tree. These bursts of activity stood out from the stillness of the surrounding forest.
Later on, as I crossed the bridge over Baltimore Brook, the sound of trickling water made me pause and focus on the stream. A few fish swam below the water’s surface. On the muddy stream bank, small hand-shaped tracks revealed a visit from a raccoon. Without the sound of the stream drawing my attention, I might have missed these signs of life.
Although the late fall forest may appear to be lifeless, focusing on sound can put us in touch with the forms of life that continue throughout the winter. Even the silent, dormant trees are still alive, waiting for spring to return. Next time you go for a hike, take a moment to listen. What sounds do you hear?