The silence of winter is over, broken by a lusty chirping that breaks out just as the first light starts to show on the horizon. Winter is never completely silent, of course. Crows will caw as they fly overhead. A jay will scream out a warning. And if you take the time to sit still in a quiet place, you’ll hear a variety of chips and chirps.

But none of these are songs. There’s nothing musical about them, not like the singing that’s starting up now. I’ve been trying to think of something that would express the feeling they convey. Happy? Hopeful? Optimistic? Forget it. Those are too trite, not to mention inadequate.

There is a tradition that birds begin to sing on St. Valentine’s Day to mark the start of the mating season. Even if it’s not strictly true, the singing certainly does begin around the middle of February.

It never fails to give me a lift, along with a list of things I keep meaning to do. Some years ago, I bought a set of tapes to help me to identify birds by their song. Once again, I’ve started listening, resolved to get better at it.

And then there’s my bird list. I’ve started one every year, at just about this time, for the past 20 years or so. I do pretty well for a couple of months. Then things come up. I get involved with something else. Pretty soon the year is up, and I have to start over.

I’m looking at the stack of them now. I’ve never been able put a hundred species on a single year’s list. My record seems to be 63 from 1998. That’s sort of embarassing. A lot of that’s record-keeping … I’ll see something, but then forget to record it. And then of course, I haven’t really been trying… I’ve got dozens of excuses.

That does it.

We’re on winter vacation this week. I’ve got my list for 2010 all set to go. Binoculars at the ready. Field guide permanently stored in my pack. My earlier tapes have been replaced by bird song identification CDs.

One Hundred or Bust for 2010!

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