Birds . . . Birds . . .Birds

Do you hear birdsong? Would you miss it if it weren’t there?

A catbird, who, like a mockingbird, mimics the sounds of other birds, but who adds a little catlike sound at the end. They are a welcome summer visitor who leaves too soon (for me, not for them surely). ©Sascha Darlington

They are seemingly ubiquitous, our feathered friends who make songs or caws or screeches. I haven’t always been interested in birds to the extent that I am now. I knew the names of the common ones in the yard where I grew up: cardinals, blue jays, robins, sparrows. In our neighborhood we didn’t really have many crows although I’d see them when I went to the country. And there I saw goldfinches, which look like canaries with streaks of black and sing joyously as they fly in undulating waves. Once I saw a bluebird and this was at a time when it seemed like they were just turning the corner from near extinction (their population had dropped by 90%) due to the aggressiveness of invasive species like house sparrows and starlings and the clearing of public lands. There were some birds I just heard as a kid in West Virginia, whip-poor-wills and screech owls at night and bobwhites during the day. I have been fortunate to hear screech owls again on visits to OBX, but not so fortunate with the other two.

And once (and many times subsequently) I thought I heard the atrocious sound of a bird being torn apart, which turned out to be a fox being chased by a black cat who was doing that back-humped, side-jumping move that they do while being cats. That fox call still strikes me as being semi-otherworldly (or of this world, you know, like a bird being torn apart: shiver). Side note: I love foxes.

In continuation of yesterday’s post about hummingbirds, I want to mention the angry-sounding chittering hummingbirds make. They make it often, and from what I’ve seen always while flying. Now that I know the sound, I’ll hear it in woods or near flowering trees or orange Virginia creeper while never ever seeing the flying fairies. (As I write this, several hummers are visiting the lantana flowers; as Autumn draws closer, each sighting is a gift.)

This hummingbird pic is several years old now. I no longer put out feeders but hope that the flowers, shrubs, and trees will provide amply. It’s especially good when I’m not there to put out feeders! ©Sascha Darlington

How dismally silent our world would be without birds. Do you have a favorite bird sound?

Here’s a video of all of the wonderful sounds a hummingbird can make.

If you enjoy watching or listening to birds but don’t know how to start about identifying them, I highly recommend the free app from Cornell called Merlin that not only allows you to identify birds via a step-by-step guide but also through picture and sound id. I love the sound id; you just hit a button on the app (it works on your phone or tablet), as it records it identifies the birds it hears! They also have different add-ons for different locations.

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