The Dawn Chorus

Aldo Leopold: “If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part of it is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota in the course of eons has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”

Aldo Leopold, the 20th century’s most important conservationist, is brought to life in this recent interview on Living on Earth.  Steve Curwood interviews Stanley Temple, Professor Emeritus in Conservation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is a Senior Fellow at the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Specifically, Aldo regularly recorded the dawn bird chorus on his farm.  This journal increases in value as a baseline record of bird species on a worn out piece of land which he bought to restore to life.  Over decades the Leopold family replanted trees and native plants—often a disheartening activity as many perished before some “took.”

In this interview, Temple explains how he found an unpublished manuscript from the Leopold papers, archived at the University of Wisconsin.  Leopold used one of the first light meters of his time to coordinate the level of light from night to dawn with the sounds of the first birds—the Dawn Chorus.  What got recorded for all time was an invaluable record of the environment against which today’s environmental elements and biodiversity can be compared.

Unlike what is happening in general to habitats, Leopold’s land has increased in biodiversity due to its restoration of native vegetation and watershed.

Enjoy the recording during the interview, and also, a current recording in which the sounds of the birds are nearly drowned by the noise from a nearby freeway.

Author: Susan Feathers

Family, friends, nature, books, writing, a good pen and journal, freedom of thought, culture, and peaceful co-relations - these are the things that occupy my mind, my heart, my time...

4 thoughts on “The Dawn Chorus”

  1. His book left a lasting impression on me. So sorry to hear the sounds of the interstate. It’s so hard to escape sound pollution.
    Here’s a piece you will appreciate with your interest in wolves. You need to click through to the article to see the videos.!+Mail


  2. Thanks for the link on the story as well as the link to Larry’s blog. This story reminds me of my time in Arizona when the first wolves were reintroduced. Very similar resistance from ranchers. I was working at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum; they kept the stud book on the wolves for reintroduction and still interpret the gray wolf to the public.


  3. And to think that at one time wolves were ubiquitous in the American Landscape. The role of top predators is still being illuminated but in short, even just their presence changes the behavior of their prey, and those changes actually lead to the flourishing of forests and scrub-lands and the communities they support…


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