oooh, I think I just heard a.....
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Don't you just hate it when you hear a bird but can't get your eyes on the little guy? I'm not a serious twitcher, so I don't know the rules for "counts" but it seems a bit unfair to me that sight is valued more than hearing. There are a number of birds that are pretty hard to tell apart until they vocalize (well, also vice versa, true enough), and some bird songs are diagnostic.
Last week I heard Uguisu singing (Japanese Bush Warbler or Cettia diphone) which was thrilling and could not be mistaken for any other bird, but I couldn't find it visually. So I guess officially it doesn't "count" right?
how wonderful! ok then, aahem: CHECK for the JBW!
Such a beautiful song, by the way, I wish there was a way to bring to you the echos of it through bamboo forest.
Hello Nycticebus! I'm not sure sightings are more valued than "hearings", even by listers. As far as I know, the ABA (the authority that is usually followed in North America) "allows" you to count heard birds - see http://www.americanbirding.org/resources/reslistru2.htm. That policy is probably followed by most North American listers and is used in "big days" / "bird races", year lists and life lists. I'm not sure what the situation is elsewhere. Songs and calls are of course fundamental in bird surveys. When we were working on censuses here (Venezuela) some years ago, in forested regions over 95% of all birds were heard only. Often similar birds are much more easily distinguished by voice than by plumage: the Old World Willow Warbler & Chiff Chaff and many of the American flycatchers (Empidonax, Myiarchus, Contopus, etc.) are good examples. Some of the people I've birded with are so taken with the wonderful song of some of the owls and antpittas that they will often only glance at the bird once it is tracked down - to them (and me!) the mystique is in the song.
More on bird song:-
Don Stap's A Parrot Without a Name touches on the value of bird sounds to the trained ear in scientific research - specifically recounting Ted Parker's fieldwork. It's also a thoroughly interesting read for all those interested in birds. Stap more recently wrote a book called Birdsong which presumably goes deeper into this subject, although I have not seen it.
Donald Kroodsma's The Singing Life of Birds is a very thorough background written by a well-known authority.
An interesting 26 minute interview with both authors is to be found at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4565590 . An earlier interview with Don Kroodsma in which he "tours the continent on his bicycle, collecting bird songs along the way" is at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4699207 .
(I keep having to edit this to get the touchstones to work)
Hello Chris (and all) and thanks. It's good to know I was wrong about "sighting" by ear. My own interest in birds has come about in a large part because of their vocalizations - mystique is just the word.
To continue this thread, perhaps there are others among us who have recently (or not so recently) heard something interesting, or read something about hearing something.
Hello again Nycticebus! It's perhaps unusual that your interest in birds stems from their songs as I think many people remember their curiosity being sparked by striking plumage or at least the visual beauty of birds. Amongst other things, I am interested in the way people respond to bird vocalisations, the cultural side of bird song. I would love to read more but I can't recall any books specifically on that subject. Does anyone know of anything? I have been in touch with someone workign on this though - http://www.abdn.ac.uk/birdsong/ if you're interested. Happy listening!
As everyone else has noted, hearing most definitely "counts" -- in fact more 'advanced' birders do a lot of their ID by ear, both of birds that are otherwise difficult to separate (lots of North American flycatchers) or of birds that they just don't see but hear well.
(My most recent lifer was a heard-only bird, as it happens, a Northern Saw-Whet Owl on a recent owling trip. And I hear Wrentits about ten times more than I see them, and never did manage to see the Canyon Wren I kept hearing on a recent hike.)
my! does that make me "advanced" before I'm even properly a beginner? :)
--7> Even just now I complained about a howling sort of noise some passing trucks made, and the other person here said "what trucks?" Of course I love looking at birds too - their plumage but also their movements. It amuses me to see young adult birds take on begging postures for example, seeming to annoy the other who still can't help but respond a little (yes, I shouldn't anthropomorphize, but oh well, Konrad Lorenz did too).
One book that discusses the power of birdsong for humans is Steven Feld's Sound and Sentiment. It's a little far afield: New Guinea, and a little exotic: headhunting cannibals, but the relation between human emotion and birdsong that he draws out is compelling.
(edited to correct touchstones)
Hi Nycticebus! Many thanks for the Feld recommendation. I mat try to get my hands on it. It doesn't seem to be popular amongst Librarything users, but maybe it's for specialist tastes..? In the UK, a major effort was made some years ago to compile popular knowledge of birds, including their vocalisations. It was published as Birds Britannica, a weighty tome that is often found in remaindered book shops. I'm always struck by the fact that local bird names here are usually much more appropriate than the official national names. They often refer to vocalisations and are onomatopoeic: "tautaco" and "taro taro" emphasizing the vocal distinction between two similar species of ibis, for example. None of this has been published, but it would make rich picking grounds for anyone interested in the subject. Any comments on Birdsong by someone who has read it? Thanks again!
I have a cowbird who has fallen in love with his reflection in our greenhouse window. He sits on a post and sings to himself every evening when I get home. I was surprised at how sweet he sounds given their bad reputation.
I also recently heard for the first time a killdeer. This one patrols the intersection near a pond at the top of my neighborhood.
This is the bleary-eyed season for me, thanks to the white-winged doves which begin their mournful communications at first light. Lovely birds, however.
#11 - Varielle: I've watched as a seemlngly outraged male vermilion flycatcher flung itself repeatedly against his reflection in the rear-view mirror of a parked car. Quite the territorial dispute.
As I was leaving the house this morning I heard a hammering and thought the neighbors were out early or else someone was trying to break into the house. This same cowbird was pecking on my kitchen window.
We've also got at least one cowbird pair around our house (not so curious, though!); but this is one bird we really wish would not visit us. Granting that parasitism is part of nature and all that, it is sad to see a female cardinal feed a cowbird chick thinking that it's her own.
At least you don't have mockingbirds singing all night, by the light of the streetlamps or the full moon (which I've had both in Arizona and California.)
The late-night mocker this spring was a REALLY BAD singer, bad enough that even I could tell -- really small repertoire, none of them very showy. Haven't heard him lately, though, so either he found an equally desperate female or the local Cooper's Hawk got him.
We recently spent a month in a coastal Mexico town which seemed exceedingly well-populated by mockingbirds. The bird laying claim to our yard sang tirelessly all day, evidently to the point of complete exhaustion, because we didn't hear him at night. His amazing repertoire (quite the mixed bag) even included the occasional riff of "pretty bird, pretty bird", which he apparently picked up at a nearby house with caged birds.
I just came back from a Connecticut deciduous resevoir mid-morning jog. No migrants to speak of. Warblers included BT Green, Am. Redstart, Blue-winged, Chestnut-sided, LA Waterthrush, Prairie, Hooded, Pine, Ovenbird, Black & White and possibly a Magnolia. Sometimes the "weeta-weeta-weete-a" of a Maggie can sound like the "a-wheet, a-wheet, a weet-eeo!" of a Hooded. Besides I had no bins and I was running at a blistering 11-minute mile pace :).
The bleary-eyed season continues as the white-winged doves start calling at first light, followed shortly by the curve-billed thrashers' sharp whistles. Several families of Gambel's quail that live in the wild area adjacent to our house have been cautiously introducing their chicks to our yard. The tiniest are the size of walnuts - quick as can be, schooling like fish. A cactus wren parent has been leading its fledged young to orange halves proferred by me. An ash-throated flycatcher avoids our yard, but I hear it calling at intervals. The house finches chatter away endlessly. Cardinals and pyrrhuloxias have been singing sweetly. A pair of hooded orioles stopped by this morning, but didn't say much. Ditto, the Chihuahuan ravens.
Alas, no warblers in my yard. However, the yellow-breasted chats are involved in a frenzy of vocalizations in the cottonwoods down along the river.
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