poetry and prose about place

Hermit thrush

with 6 comments

Another surprise in the morning bird chorus — a Hermit thrush. I have been listening for it all spring and at last, this morning, the ethereal notes.


June 24 2016 'thrush ethereal' Jane Tims


How to describe the song of the Hermit thrush? T.S. Eliot described it in The Waste Land, in V: What the Thunder Said :

 … sound of water over a rock

Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees

Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop …


… who is the third who walks always beside you …


… In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing

Over the tumbled graves …


A technical description of the Hermit thrush song is ‘a beginning note, then several descending musical phrases in a minor key, repeated at different pitches.’


The song is clear, flute-like. To me the essential characteristics are the change in pitch at the beginning of the new phrase and the hint of water within. If you watch the Hermit thrush while she is singing, she stands tall, tilts her head back, looks into the distance with her bright black eye, lifts her feathers ever so slightly and opens her beak. Her throat swells a little but otherwise you are left to wonder, where do those notes begin?


If her song was another sound, it would be a flute in the forest.

If it was a smell, it would be the sweet scent of mayflowers, as you part the leaves with the back of your hand.

If it was a touch, it would be lifted hairs at the back of your neck.

If it was a taste, it would be syrup drizzled over iced milk.

If it was an image, it would be guttation drops on strawberries.




What other words describe the song of the Hermit thrush?












froth on a dancing wave

raindrops trembling on the tips of leaves

the step from rung to rung on a ladder


If it was a vowel, it would be every vowel

If it was a consonant, it would be ‘c’, ‘l’, ‘r’, or ‘v’



Hermit thrush


Catharus guttatus


neither visceral nor guttural, ethereal

tip-toe in tree tops

air pulled into taffy thread

a flute in the forest

froth on a wave


rain trembles on leaf tips

guttation drops on strawberry

a lifted curtain of mayflower


I saw you there

hidden in the thicket 

and I followed


climb the ladder and sing

then step to the rung below

heads up, thoughts of the new day

parting of the beak

pulse at the throat

hairs lift

at the nape

of the neck, fingers

warble the keys

between middle and ring




Copyright  2016  Jane Tims




6 Responses

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  1. This is beautiful, Jane. So much quietness and solitude tucked in among the thronging sounds.

    Liked by 1 person


    July 1, 2016 at 8:54 am

    • Hi Roger. I sent your response to Barbara. Barbara has been my friend on the blog since almost the beginning back in 2011.

      Liked by 1 person

      jane tims

      July 1, 2016 at 10:25 am

  2. A sweet drawing of a pretty bird. I listened to its song on “Music of Nature” and thought your words described it very well, definitely “a flute in the forest.”

    Liked by 1 person

    Barbara Rodgers

    July 1, 2016 at 8:48 am

    • Hi Roger. Thanks. I only heard it the once this year. Other years it has been nearby every day. I read that their ranges are quite large so it is away enchanting some other folk.


      jane tims

      July 1, 2016 at 10:21 am

    • Hi Barbara. Again I have mixed my responses. Roger is a good friend and a birdwatcher too. Jane


      jane tims

      July 1, 2016 at 10:23 am

    • I went to Music of Nature. A very good way to learn some bird songs!


      jane tims

      July 1, 2016 at 10:32 am

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