August 01, 2003

Right Place, Right Time

As I frequently do during the day, and especially on days like yesterday when it drizzles and drips for endless hours, I stepped out onto the front porch to "take the air" as they used to say. It had rained softly for most of the night, but stopped about first light, though it was still very foggy and cool. And yet I could hear a pretty good patter of drops still falling, but only under the big maple that covers our view of the eastern sky near the house. The tree was alive with birds bouncing back and forth in the wet branches in a frenzy, and I slipped back inside quickly for my binoculars, though I could hear most of what I wanted to know.

While I've forgotten way too much of what I used to know about bird songs, I had no problems recognizing the nasal honk of the nuthatches; the scolding sound of the chick-a-dee-dee-dees; the peter-peter of the titmice; and another sound that was at first familiar but unnamed. I tried to visualize the unknown bird call as if it formed a musical pattern, and then it came to me: I could see a series of saw-toothed up and down notes in a buzzy wee-see-wee-see voice. And when I trained my binocs on them, I verified that these were black and white warblers-- as good a view of them (and there were at least four) as I've ever had. All these birds, and also a few white-eyed vireos and an unknown silent yellow-green warbler were working the maple over in what seemed to be a 'feeding guild' where all niches of the tree-- from trunk bark crevices to crotches, leaf undersurfaces and terminal twigs-- were being gleaned systematically by the various bird specialists working more or less cooperatively.

Soon, this crew began moving off a few at a time to a nearby walnut, starting their feeding assignments over again with a fresh plate. I'd pay good money to see such wonderful displays of animal behavior... but I'm truly glad it's free and I can experience it in my bedroom slippers. I just love living country.

Posted by fred1st at August 1, 2003 07:42 AM | TrackBack

Honk? Nuthatches honk? Nasally?

They're hardly bigger than the nuts they hatch.

Defamation of character if ever I read such. No wonder the vireos are wild-eyed.

Posted by: Jim (aka JC South) at August 1, 2003 09:31 AM

Both your eyesight and your memory for calls/songs exceed mine. By the time I get binoculars up to my eyes, I've lost the little buggers. What a feast you had. Good on you!

Posted by: Cop Car at August 2, 2003 03:33 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?