Cienega Creek in winter

Listening for signs of spring

The birds around my house seem to think spring has arrived. The doves, Curve-billed Thrashers, Cactus Wrens, Mockingbirds, Gambel’s Quail, and House Finches are singing up a storm. At 3,000 feet in the Sonoran Desert, the temps lately have been around 70F, but there are few other signs of spring. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to get a nice recording at my house, with all of the planes, trains, automobiles and barking dogs. So on February 1st, I headed to my favorite birdy area, Las Cienegas National Conservation area to see if the birds might have started singing there yet.

Near its 4200 feet headwaters, Cienega Creek is a quiet little spring-fed creek. It can turn into a raging torrent during summer thunderstorms, but this time of year it meanders softly through the leafless cottonwoods and willows. It was a very quiet day, no leaves rustling, just the occasional chirp of a Black Phoebe or the snort of a white-tailed deer. The dog and I crunched through the fallen leaves as we followed the trail of a large mountain lion for a couple of miles downstream.

Mountain lion track along Cienega Creek

Mountain lion track along Cienega Creek.

So spring was quite a ways off yet. But without the sound of leaves rustling, or insects or birds singing, the lovely sound of the little creek became more apparent. I listened, mesmerized, to a kaleidoscope of muted gurgles, giggles, and sighs, once again lost in the sound of the water’s music.

 

Recording notes: Recorded with Sony PCM-M10 and Audio Technica AT2022 with FEL SK3.5 amp. Recording subject to high pass filtering.

 

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