A clear, sharp, whistled voice peals up from the salmonberries. I follow it back along a narrow trail and find its maker: a fox sparrow twenty feet up in an elderberry tree. Wholly engaged in its performance, the bird takes no notice as I ease in below. It looks very plain – reddish-brown on the back, speckled on the breast and sides. Perhaps most of its evolutionary energy went into perfecting this ambrosial song. Every note is like a beam of brilliant light, woven into a complex, shimmering web. And with each sound, a tiny plume of steam puffs from the sparrow’s opened beak, rings and wreathes and curls outward, and dissolves into the crystal morning air. I can almost feel the breath of its song against the bare flesh of my face and fingers. Rich phrases pour down, and the leafless thicket trembles with its own living voice.
~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within