Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Surviving Spring

Northern Mockingbird at Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve

I received a question from Audry that I am getting from a lot of readers this time of year, and so I thought I would do a post on it.  Here is the question:

I have a question??? I cannot remember ever hearing birds tweeting all night long!!! Seriously it's like from Midnight to all day. They quiet some about mid day, but then start up again at midnight. I think I'm going to lose my mind!! Don't get me wrong the birds are magical to watch in the fountain during the day, but I'm at my wits end. It's been a week of sleepless nights, and earplugs cannot be worn else I'll sleep through the alarm clock.

Can you explain this? What kind of birds are these, and is it a migratory thing?



Thank you for your question, Audry. This is a common question around this time of year. It is spring, and in spring, birds establish territory and look for mates. They do this by singing.  And singing.  And then singing some more.  Sometimes as birds shift territories, you become the lucky one who gets the loud singers in your front or back yard. I remember years ago I had problems with loud Northern Mockingbirds. For over a decade now, I have been lucky and have had no springtime serenade. The most likely candidate for your loud, singing bird is the Northern Mockingbird. The Northern Mockingbird is loud and has varied songs and sounds. It sings for long periods of time. Another bird that does sing at night on occasion is the American Robin.  See my post "What's That Singing in the Night?"

Spotted Towhee at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine

A few tips for surviving the songs of spring  

1) While ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones are helpful, there are other solutions. White noise is a good idea because it will help block the noise. You can buy simple white noise machines for various prices or make your own by having your CD player on continuous play, using your iPod, or turning on your TV to a channel with no station broadcasting on it. Even a channel with a real station might do the trick. The idea is to have any kind of noise like static, music, rainfall, waves, a babbling brook, wind, etc. Therapists have white noise machines for privacy, but you can use the same thing for sleeping. The continuous, steady noise overlays the bird songs and makes them stand out less to your brain. It is best if the sound source for the white noise is between you and the window.   White noise usually does not prevent a person from hearing their alarm, but you may want to try it out first to see if you can hear your alarm with your white noise turned on.  Better than finding out after you are late for work.

2) If you can, make sure your windows are closed to minimize the loud singing.

3) Relaxation techniques can also help. Sometimes it is not so much the sound as it is our reaction to it. Much the same as not being able to sleep is upsetting,  and so once you begin to have trouble sleeping you stress out and can't sleep, when the bird starts singing, you get stressed and have even more trouble sleeping. So stress about not being about to sleep can contribute to not sleeping.  Check out these sites for information on relaxation techniques: The University of Maryland Sleep Disorders Center has some excellent information for those with and without sleep disorders. Here is the section on relaxation techniques-- and see these relaxation techniques from WebMD You might even try using a relaxation tape which would effectively combine suggestions 1 and 3.

California Quail calling at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine

3) I would also suggest a few other things that are just for good sleep in general. The reason being that the less ready you are for a nice, restful sleep, the more the birds singing will bother you. The more ready you are to sleep, the more likely you are to sleep through the Mockingbird's Anvil chorus.

A) Have a regular schedule for your bedtime and waking up.

B) Eat well and remember to keep hydrated during the day.

C) Exercise during the day, but avoid exercising within two hours of your bedtime.

D) Avoid caffeine. As tempting as it is to use it to keep yourself awake during the day, if you are using it in the late afternoon, you are risking keeping yourself up at night for the avian concert.

E) Avoid using alcohol to sleep because it will not keep you asleep and can in fact wake you up during the night.

F) Avoid foods that are hard to digest due to high fat or spicy,  or that raise your blood sugar a lot. These can also keep you up.

Song Sparrow at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine

G) Although adults don’t want to have their favorite story read to them before bedtime, we do best with bedtime routines that help prepare us for sleep. Repeating the same routine before bed can help you prepare for sleep.

Hope this helps and that you can get some sleep.  Thanks again for your question.

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Foods that help you sleep

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Judy said...

Hello; this may seem out of the blue, but I came across your blog when googling hiking trails around Irvine. Just wanted to say that I deeply appreciate the effort and passion you've put into this blog, and that your photos are gorgeous.

Orange County Birder Girl said...

Thank you, Judy. I appreciate that. I do love birding and Orange County. And photography. Happy hiking. There are a lot of great places to hike in Orange County.