A Feast for the Ears

Spring brings us choruses of birds at dawn. In summer, we are lulled to sleep by katydids and crickets. During a fall walk in the woods, we may hear the clash of deer antlers during the rut. The whinny of screech owls and the wail of coyotes break the stillness of winter nights.

Reading about these natural events can be rewarding, but sometimes hearing them is even better. That is why the Conservation Department developed the Nature Notes radio program-because nature is a feast for the ears as well as for the eyes.

Over the years, we have combined lively scripts and authentic sounds from nature to answer questions about our natural world, including "Why do birds sing?" "What should I do with orphaned baby animals?" "How long do animals live?" "Where do insects go in winter?" and "When will the purple martins return?"

One of the most rewarding jobs as a Conservation Department employee is helping people to understand and appreciate our outdoor heritage. Conservation Department naturalists and biologists know that certain topics become hot seasonally when something unusual or conspicuous is happening "out there." Through the seasons we get hundreds of requests for information about mushroom hunting, wildflower blooming dates, hummingbird feeding, poison ivy, bird migration, urban deer and animal hibernation.

For every caller or walk-in visitor, we suspect there are hundreds of people with similar questions who do not contact us. We decided that an entertaining and informative radio program-a kind of natural events calendar on the air-could answer these frequently asked questions.

The first Nature Notes radio programs were aired in 1992. Since then we produced 260 90-second programs for radio stations. In support of the programs, we recorded many natural sounds in the field and obtained others from our sound library and from the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology sound collection.

We developed program material with the help of nature centers, field biologists, land managers and clerical staff, who usually were the first people fielding questions from the public. Over 50 Conservation Department employees have been involved in researching material and writing, reviewing and editing scripts.

Today, Nature Notes has grown beyond our early concept. Not only have Nature Notes aired on about 50 radio stations throughout the state and in several neighboring states, the programs are used by Conservation Department education consultants, conservation nature centers, Director Conley's "Conservation on Call" radio program and by conservation agents.

"I receive a lot of positive comments