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Life Abounds in a Conservation Cemetery: The Wood Thrush


Life Abounds in a Conservation Cemetery: The Wood Thrush…

A conservation cemetery is, by design, a green space large enough to be a true nature preserve. It may encompass a woodland, a field of wildflowers, even a stream. The hope is that in communion with the natural world, we will find comfort and peace, that in walking amongst the trees, we will find solace for our aching hearts.  The intention is to honor the earth and provide a refuge from development and other human impacts. There are countless animals and plants that will benefit from this gift. This month we focus on one such beneficiary, the Wood Thrush:

Hearing the flute-like song of the Wood Thrush is one of the thrills of a woodland walk in spring. There is a mystical quality to the song that lends a magical aura to the forest and always stops me in my tracks.  Each spring the birds leave their wintering grounds in Central America and fly across the Gulf of Mexico to breed in the eastern U.S.  The males sing their complex song to establish territory and attract a mate.

Wood Thrush populations are in serious decline and habitat destruction is thought to be one of the prime reasons. Large tracts of suitable forested habitat are increasingly hard to find, so many birds are forced to build nests near the forest edge. These nests are often parasitized by cowbirds, a bird that lays its eggs in the nest of other species. The cowbird nestlings outcompete many of the Wood Thrush nestlings, decreasing the number of young that survive.  Another suspected factor in Wood Thrush decline is surprisingly a decrease in snail populations due to acid rain!  Wood Thrushes require significant amounts of calcium, which they obtain from eating snail shells, to lay a clutch of eggs.  Habitats with acid rain are found to have fewer snails and this rarity in turn limits the numbers of eggs a Wood Thrush can lay.

Go to the following website to hear the Wood Thrush song.  Listen for the repeated “ee-oh-lay” and the trill that ends each phrase.  http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Wood_Thrush/sounds

Contributed by: Kim Bailey, a naturalist at Warner Park Nature Center in Nashville TN. She is an avid hiker, cyclist, photographer and explorer of the natural world.   Her powerful childhood connection to nature led to a lifetime commitment to educating others about the joys and responsibilities of caring for the earth.


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