The warm, lazy days of summer are a great time to enjoy the sounds of nature in the preserves, and research shows that pleasant natural sounds are good for your health. They help lower blood pressure, improve cognitive performance and even reduce pain.
Below are some of the most relaxing and enjoyable sounds of nature. We invite you to see if you can hear them in a DuPage forest preserve near you.
Nothing is more soothing than the sound of a babbling brook, trickling stream or waterfall. Studies show that water sounds boost both overall health outcomes and positive emotions like tranquility.
Visitors can hear the trickles and roars of water as it slips through boulders and jets through open chutes created for passing canoes and kayaks at Warrenville Grove Forest Preserve in Warrenville and McDowell Grove Forest Preserve in Naperville. To hear the sounds of a waterfall rushing over rocks, visit Rocky Glen waterfall at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in Darien.
Rocky Glen waterfall at Waterfall Glen in Darien.
Croaks and Ribbits
Listen for the sounds of green frogs, American bullfrogs and others all summer long. Male green frogs looking for mates belt out explosive twangs that sound a lot like loose banjo strings. More familiar sounds are the baritone jug-o-rums of male bullfrogs, which can be heard over a half mile away. Often mistaken for crickets, breeding American toads project high repeating trills, each lasting up to 20 seconds. Gray tree frogs make similar-sounding warbles but in 3-second bursts.
One place to enjoy these amphibians is near the south shelter at Herrick Lake Forest Preserve in Wheaton. If no one’s performing, listen for calls on a walk around the 1-mile Lake Trail. The grassy area by the pond near the Elsen’s Hill parking lot at West DuPage Woods Forest Preserve in West Chicago is another popular spot. Here’s a helpful guide to various frog calls.
Choir of Songbirds
Step outside just about anywhere, and you can hear the calls and songs of birds. You can hear birds throughout the day, but they’re especially vocal at dawn and dusk. Birds can be found in all DuPage forest preserves, but Songbird Slough in Itasca, Springbrook Prairie in Naperville and Oldfield Oaks in Darien are good birding spots. Play Bird Call Bingo and see how many bird calls you can hear.
Common yellowthroat is a songbird native to DuPage County.
Chirp and Buzz of Bugs
Crickets, grasshoppers and katydids use their wings and legs to make a variety of sounds. A cricket creates sounds by rubbing a toothed file on one wing against a hardened vein on the other wing. Given the wing shape and size, crickets create tones more pleasant to the human ear.
Grasshoppers that make noise either “crepitate” — rattle their wings while flying, or “stridulate” — rub their legs against their wings like a bow on a violin string. They’re generally active during the day in grassy areas and open fields.
Katydids look like grasshoppers but have long, thread-like antenna like crickets. They also stridulate by rubbing their wings together like crickets. They’re generally a common nocturnal woodland sound in the summer. If you listen for the scraping, raspy calls of the common true katydid, it can sound like “Katy did, Katy didn’t.”
Katydids stridulate by rubbing their wings together like crickets. They're generally a common nocturnal sound in the summer..
Leaves Rustling in Trees
One of the most soothing sounds of nature is the sounds of leaves rustling in trees on a breezy day. The sound of wind in the trees and the rustling of leaves has enchanted people for so long that a word was invented to describe it: psithurism (pronounced sith-err-iz-um), according to wonderopolis.org.
Naturalist John Muir wrote that pines "are mighty waving goldenrods, ever in tune, singing and writing wind music all their long century lives."
Take Time to Listen
On your next outdoor adventure, take a quiet moment to stop and listen to the sounds of birds, insects, water and trees that make up a summer symphony in the preserves. Natural sounds improve health, increase positive affect, and lower stress and annoyance. Get that feeling of clear-headed calm that washes over you when you listen to water babbling in a stream, leaves rustling in the wind or animals chirping and croaking in the woods. Take it all in and relax!