Annotating the sounds of Thoreau’s Journal (with the Macauley Library)

January 31, 2012

“Now I began to hear owls, screech (?) owls, at a distance up-stream; but we hardly got nearer to them, as if they retreated before us. At length, when off Wheeler’s grape and cranberry meadow, we heard one near at hand. The rhythm of it was pe-pe-ou ; this once or twice repeated, but more of a squeal and somewhat human. Or do not all strange sounds thrill us as human, till we have learned to refer them to their proper source? They appeared to answer one another half a mile apart; could be heard from far woods a mile off.

The wind has risen and the echo is poor; it does not reverberate up and down the river. No sound of a bullfrog, but steadily the cricket-like Rana palustris alongshore.

Rowse heard a whip-poor-will at Sleepy Hollow tonight. No scent of muskrats.”

–Henry David Thoreau, Journal entry for September 4th, 1854

Which of these owls do you think Thoreau heard?

Short-eared owl
Northern Saw-whet owl
Eastern Screech-Owl

1 [Changed in pencil, evidently at a later date, to “mole cricket.”]


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