My father-in-law, Gene Nelson, gave me a bird clock in 1997. It’s a field guide, featuring images of birds and authentic recordings from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 

A different songbird gives voice to the top of each hour. The bird singing at noon is a house finch, an American robin sings at 1, northern mockingbird at 2, blue jay at 3, house wren at 4, tufted titmouse at 5, Baltimore oriole at 6, mourning dove at 7, black-capped chickadee at 8, northern cardinal at 9, a white-throated sparrow whistles at 10 and a white-breasted nuthatch heralds 11 o’clock. Darkness deactivates the sounds, allowing ears to sleep. 

I know when I hear the house finch, it’s either time to eat or to go to bed. When I hear the Baltimore oriole, it’s time to eat or to think about getting out of bed. When I hear the chickadee, it’s time to smile. 

I’d miss the sounds of those birds if the clock my father-in-law gave me wasn’t hanging on a wall of my home. I miss my late father-in-law. 

It helps to listen to his birds.

Al Batt is a syndicated columnist. For questions or comments about this article, contact Al at


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