Wednesday, May 6, 2009

THERE'S AT LEAST ONE EVERY SPRING


Many birdwatchers will know this feeling, I've no doubt. It's early in the morning, the silvery half-light is just beginning to infiltrate the bedroom, and dawn is at least a hour away. You're snuggled under the covers, not totally asleep, but drifting deliciously, knowing that today you can sleep in - you don't have to get up til you feel like it. You're just about to roll over when you hear it: a bird you don't recognize, a bird you're certain you've never heard before and isn't on your life list. But you know from experience in springs past that it's still way too dark to make an ID, even if you could get out there to catch a glimpse of it. And besides, by the time you did get yourself up and into half-decent shape to duck out your back door, the bird will almost certainly have moved on. So you lie there, trying desperately to memorize the song so you can find it later. The one I heard this morning was a lively, almost vaudevilian "yada-yada-ya-da-da...buzz." I got excited! This one is so distinctive, I just know I'm going to be able to find it! (insert Jeopardy buzzer noise here)

I have 2 CD sets of birdsongs. One is "53 All-American Bird Songs and Calls" and the other is a 3-CD set of Eastern/Central birds from the prestigious Roger Tory Peterson "Birding By Ear" series. I laid down some serious bucks for that baby, let me tell you. And between the two, I have never ID'd a single bird! For one thing, using them is very frustrating, because they don't have a separate band for each bird. The 53 birds is grouped in sets of three, and the Peterson isn't grouped at all. You can't FF the remote to find anything in that grab-bag of songs and calls! So I made some coffee and went online to check out the WAV files. At least there you can check out songs one at a time, but...but...it's still a feathered needle in a giant haystack of possible birdsongs. Besides, by the time you've listened to a couple dozen warblers and vireos, you're starting to doubt you'd recognize the little performer if he was sitting right on top of your monitor. And so, the sun is now up, the bird is long gone, either to continue migrating northward, or back to sit on the nest. And here I sit, too. The coffee's gone cold, CDs are scattered on table, foiled once again! Sound familiar, anyone?

Feeder photo: "It wasn't any of these..."

15 comments:

Grace Albaugh said...

Love this post. I feel your frustration.I'm not really a birder but have spent all my life listening to them. I too hear a song now and then that I don't think I've heard before and wonder what it was. I love the birds.

Thanks for visiting me at my place. I completely agree with you on the the happiness or joy factor. There have been times when I've walked through a place or space and have felt complete joy. It was wonderful.

On Monday I had a smile day. I passed so many people with smiles on their faces that day. Even when I was driving home from my mother and dad's there was this guy on his riding lawn mower and as I passed he flashed me this huge grin. I then realizes that I had had a smile planted on my face all day. It was wonderful.

Sorry for the book. Have a beautiful day!

Grace

Poetikat said...

Of course! It's the Great horned Seinfeldicus, isn't it?
We had a brown thrasher stop in for his annual visit yesterday. It'll be the catbird next.

Kat

Lin said...

wow you are serious birder...maybe too serious. I'd vote for more sleep.

Sylvia K said...

Oh, i do soooo relate! Love your post as always! And I agree with Grace, it is wonderful to feel joy for no particular reason, to not be able to stop smiling for no particular reason. It's spring!!!

mom/caryn said...

Nah... I just lay there in my deliciously dream like state and let it sing me back to sleep.

But... that being said, I LOVED this post! You described the morning so well that I felt like I was sitting on your shoulder being carried into the event with you. The whole experience came to life for me.

Wonderful. It's amazing (odd actually) how refreshed I feel after reading about your frustrations.

bobbie said...

So familiar.

I listen to the song. I find out which bird that is. and 20 minutes later, I can't remember. Too many. Too confusing. And apparently I'm too old to retain the new information.

I've given up. I now just enjoy hearing the many songs and don't even try to identify.

Rose said...

I must say that I am familiar with it in that I have been out and heard songs, came home and then can't quite recall how the call went.

Sue said...

not quite that serious a birder, but I did woken day before yesterday by an unfamiliar bird song that really intrigued me -- it sounded like an obnoxious car alarm. At first that's what I thought it was, with its three sharp blasts, silence, then another three piercing bleats. Ultimately though it did become clear that it was made by a bird and not something electronic. Wonder what it was?

Deborah Godin said...

@Sue - the first thing I thought of from your description was a Red-breasted Nuthatch, a small but very loud bird.

Cloudia said...

A worthy quest!!
Aloha

Raven said...

Oh a sad story wonderfully told. Every so often I go on a hunt for bird pictures and drive myself to the brink of madness. Didn't know they had tapes to identify them by sound... sometimes I hear birds off in the distance singing songs I've never heard and wish they would show themselves. I'll have to check out finding them by song.

Sue said...

Deborah, thanks! That was in fact the red-breasted nuthatch that I had heard. I don't have a notation of the red-breasted nuthatch in my birding book, only the white breasted one -- doesn't mean that one never came to my yard before, only that it never came while I was actively keeping up with my list. Thanks also for the website. Maybe now we can identify what my husband calls the "monkey" bird that so often wakes him when he goes camping in the mountains.

Ruth said...

My goodness, I envy your view! I told my daughters I wanted Bird Jam for Mothers Day and then proceeded to buy it myself. It is now loaded on my iPod touch and I can see the bird and listen to its song with 2 quick touches. It is so much easier than finding a track on a CD. I used the Stokes Eastern Bird Songs CD with the program. I just ID'd a Pine Warbler in my yard.
http://www.birdjam.com/

Quiet Paths said...

I know exactly what you mean. Except there is one bird out on the coast that is quite common but I cannot ever actually SEE it. I hear it all the time and it sounds just like that -- the exuberant: "yada-yada-ya-da-da...buzz

I always figure this year I'll identify the little songster if it were not for all those trees...

Dee said...

Great post- I bought IBird Explorer Plus for my Iphone which doesn't solve your problem, but it is an incredibly handy bird guide, with sounds, great pictures---ok I am starting to sound like a commercial! :)