The return of bird songs is one of the first clues that winter
is officially over. As naturalist F. Schuyler Mathews wrote nearly
a century ago, "It is not possible to listen to the melody of the
song sparrow... without realizing that we are released from the
cold clutch of winter and set down in the comfortable lap of spring."
Mathews was a bird lover, composer and an artist. He would venture
out into the fields and woods around his home in Campton, N.H.,
and write down the songs the birds were singing. Then, he translated
bird song into musical notes.
The first major effort of its kind, his Field Book of Wild Birds
and Their Music was first published in 1904. Through watercolor
illustrations, transcriptions of bird songs and lush descriptions
of the birds themselves, the book documented 82 species. Judy Pelikan
has re-illustrated and condensed Mathews' work in a new book, called
Music of Wild Birds.