Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Shenandoah Valley: Natural Bridge, Virginia

May 10, 10:00 a.m.

Sunrise at 6:13 a.m.

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Billy Rays is walking his dog down the road when I stop to chat. In his fine local dialect, he tells me about his disability that prevents him from working, how he has a window on his stomach and is eager to show it to me (I decline), how he cleans the bandages every day, how he thanks the Lord that he can live with mom and dad here in rural Virginia.

But we soon talk birds, of course, after a little geography lesson about where we are, near Natural Bridge, one of the wonders of the world, and certainly a fine tourist attraction. He tells of cardinals (state bird), chickadees, titmice, finches, turkeys, deer, bears . . .

At one point, I think he's misidentified a Carolina wren as a northern cardinal, but he was right, as he was listening to the cardinal in the distance, and he knew enough to know that he couldn't identify the nearby singer as a wren.

Says Billy Rays: "I love watching wildlife . . . all wildlife . . . watching 'em and listening to 'em, and you can always learn something from 'em . . ."


A passing car; gentle wind chimes on the porch where we sit and talk.

Natural Bridge-2

Billy Rays' backyard