Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Spring and Birds and Song!

 It is absolutely the best time of the year to take a stroll through the woods. Away from day-to-day chaos, it is easy to be drawn into the calm of the avian world.
 A chorus of song, mostly male, fills the air. Loudest among the perching birds are the Northern Waterthrush, the Fox Sparrow, the White-throated Sparrow and the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. One interesting point is there is often a lot of variation in the song. Sometimes, only a portion of the song is sung and repeated over and over. Other times, there is a completely different tune. As I have been told, it is really about learning the tone of the bird rather than the actual song.
 Time and exposure has enabled me to learn the most common songs and to readily identify the species in song. It is an exciting new dimension to birding. I was determined to not study my way through this birding experience and just let it unfold naturally.
 That approach has been very satisfying for me. With a level of readiness, I progressively master, (well, semi-master), field marks, behaviour and song. It really is possible to learn by inertia, and is an absolutely stress-free way of stacking knowledge.
 From the high-pitched to the round sounds of different species, the males set up their territory.
 First they sing to attract a pretty little mate like this kinglet. Dressed in their best Spring attire sounding out their best vocals, many males have already found their seasonal partner.
 Will they stop singing? Not just yet. They will continue to sing until the eggs are laid and secure. It is the duty of the male to protect the young from predators. A powerful song helps to ward off danger.
 Then, July will roll in and the passerines will go quiet. It is at this time the small birds begin to moult. Their ability to fly is somewhat impeded by this process, and they really don't want to draw attention to themselves.
 The beautiful songs gradually disappear. It is at about that time chipping begins. Now, that creates a new challenge for birders. Each bird has a distinct chip... more to learn.
 To date, I really can only identify about five species by their chips. Perhaps, more exposure this year will help me to widen my repertoire.
While it is hard to believe they don't just sing for me, birds actually communicate with each other through their vocals. They tell others to stay away, they lure mates to come close, and they warn others of approaching danger.
Over the last week, I have met some people in Bidgood's Park who are not birders but who just love to listen to the bird songs. The bridges and woods are filling up with admirers. After all, these sweet sounds beat the heck out of the grating sounds of a snow plow!

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