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Outdoors: Shorebirds and 'Les Préludes'

Sandpiper standing in shallow rocky water

We’re starting to hear it.

Strains of Liszt’s Les Préludes wafting through stately pines of Interlochen. Students are rehearsing the final piece for the final concert of the Interlochen Arts Camp season.

Hearing this piece evokes a certain restlessness to those of us who migrate to this special place between the lakes each summer. It means it’s almost time to leave.

Curiously, the shorebirds along Lake Michigan and nearby wetlands are feeling the same sort of restlessness.

It’s not caused by familiar musical phrases, but rather, by photoperiod.

The hours of daylight are getting shorter. Nights are longer.

Very soon, it will be time to go.

Shorebirds that breed in the far north probably started their journeys to South America last month. They stop over in the Great Lakes region to rest and rebuild their fat reserves.

But even the birds that reproduce here are getting restless, exercising their flight muscles, fattening up to fuel their long flights. Their young have grown and learned; the days getting are shorter - almost time to leave.

Curiously, the females of our rare piping plovers leave first, leaving their mates to protect the young. But in August, they all leave their summer homes. Almost time to go. It’s what birds do.

Leaving is what many of the Camp Family do this week. I have to wonder - and will never know - do birds have a special love for their summer homes?

Are they as sad to leave as we are?

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.