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06
Wednesday
06 May 2020

A wood grouse’s song

‘Since millennia, the rite of fertilisation repeats itself in the usual remote places during spring, when the buds of the willows and elders swell above a mantel of snow, soaked in water ready to thaw during the day. The sloping hills bathed in the sun’s first rays are a silent and wild sight. Harken to sounds which can echo for miles. This is where the wood grouse, an animal as old as time itself, has chosen its resting spot. A song which echoes in the forests and mountains, declaring its supremacy and respect for its kin. It uses a fir branch to declare its presence, the sound similar to a large hammer pummelling a nail in a trunk: thunk – thunk – thunk. The sun starts rising in front of the mountains, the forest limned against the sky, and the grouse’s song intensifies with the rising sun. It ventures forth, its tail upright like a banner and its wings nearly flush to the ground, leaving two parallel tracks on the snow. Its stretched neck and raised head greet the sun, and it sings its challenge to the world; it turns in circles, shivers, jumps while fluttering is wings, its guttural song akin to a sickle being sharpened on a whetstone. It goes on, for hours, and if somebody tries to invade its arena, and accepts the challenge, there will be a fight: the stronger of the two will be king. And one day, on a propitious day, the females will come forth to mate with the grouse which will have proven to be the most solemn and balanced match. Once the deed is done, the females will disperse and mark their territory selecting the location for their clutch using unknown criteria, but what is certain is that it is next to groves where the chicks can roam more easily.’

Mario Rigoni Stern, Il libro degli animali (Freely translated from Italian)

Rigoni Stern’s words are magical, and he uses a simple language typical of those people who truly know how the world works. During May, you can listen to the song of the wood grouses: simply sit down and watch them in the woods without disturbing their song.