Column – The Sounds of Nature and the Coming Cacophony

Published 5:44 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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We live on a little arm of Lake Meade in downtown Suffolk.  There are always noises.  Not just sirens, loud cars, truck decelerations, and horns.  There are always bird noises which we love. 

Our Great Blue Herons are all called “Gronk” for the grumpy sound they make when they fly by.  We have about 50 Canada geese who honk out a hello.  Ospreys, Bald Eagles, and hawks provide high pitched screeches.  Owls are asking “Who?” all night.

The belted Kingfishers chitter chatters across the lake, Jays are squawking, the Pileated woodpecker drums on the trees and Warblers warble their song at dawn.  You get the picture… Ma Nature is not so quiet, but she’s constant.

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But, just wait…Ma has a much louder spring in store for us… much louder!  Surely everybody is familiar with the sound of cicadas and you’ve probably seen their empty shells from time to time on trees.  Some years there are lots of them and some years, it is relatively quiet.  The “broods” lie dormant in the earth for 13 years, then come out and chirp for a few months until they die. 

 This year is going to be very loud.  For the first time since 1803 (during the time Jefferson was president), two broods will be active at the same time.  Brood XIII will emerge in Illinois, a 17-year occurrence. At the same time, Brood XIX will emerge in the southeastern states.  We’re talking about trillions of screechy insects singing their love song and trying to scare off the competition for a month or two.  Trillions of anything belting out their happy tune for a month or so boggles the mind. Imagine a trillion teenagers blasting their music at the same time. 

So, let’s enjoy the birdsongs, bird calls, and bird screeches we’re hearing in Suffolk now as music to our collective ears because the cicadas are coming to some trees near you this April and it’s gonna get loud.  

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at