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NIght Sounds

You might think that being on a small island might be quiet. Peaceful it is, quiet it is not. On Fridays in the early evening you might hear some music drifting down from the nearby village of Salem; not loud enough to be disturbing, and just a reminder that you aren’t the only people on this end of the Island but it’s the sounds of nature that I treasure.


We are just returning from ten nights at Moonshadow in mid-November; the sun is up at 6:30, and sets at 5:30PM, aka 17:30 for the military and non-USA folks. As the sun goes down, the little tree frogs start to chirp—to me, it’s a characteristic sound of Montserrat that I miss off-island. It’s like audio comfort food. The crickets mix in. With the louvers open throughout the house for air circulation, it’s a veritable chirp-fest. The frogs are tiny, about the size of an American quarter or an EC dollar, and they are tough to find unless you happen to be lucky. You would swear one is calling on a bush right in front of your nose, but you just can’t spot them.

There is usually a breeze coming across the Center Hills, and you will hear the gusts in the palm fronds and the other trees before it passes through the house. If there is the occasional rain shower, like we had in November, add in the sound of the rain on drumming on the wooden roof and cascading from the over-loaded gutters.


When the volcano turned life upside-down for people on Montserrat, one of the things that happened was that chickens that were being raised for the usual reasons (eggs, drumsticks, etc.) were released by their owners to fend for themselves. They have quite successfully established themselves as part of the local wildlife in a “Chickens Gone Wild” fashion. Everyone who has never lived with chickens knows that roosters crow at sunrise. This is true; they also crow during the day, and occasionally during the night, especially if there is a full moon. These guys also fly pretty well, and as a city boy, I was surprised to find a rooster and two of his hens roosting 15 feet off the ground in our mango tree, crowing away lustily at 5 in the morning. They also do this buck-buck-buck-bugock! sound which either has something to do with two roosters arguing over territory (observed) or making chicken love (imagined, but not obsessively); or both.


When we were there in spring and July, there was also the sound of a bird, the pearly-eyed thrasher. They mostly call during the day, but may also start before dawn. This is a loud, musical call, sort of like too-wee (like calling a pig, soo-ee!!, only prettier). When they are calling, it sounds like one is in every tree. This is also a characteristic sound of the Island. If it’s the dry season (winter/spring) and the thrashers are calling, then you probably won’t hear many frogs or crickets as they are more active in the wet.

There are other sounds that we haven’t been able to identify, but they are all fun, and easy to get used to. And they all beat the sounds of sirens and semis on the Washington DC beltway or whatever highway noises pass by your bed back at home.

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