Learning the Lingo

I walked along the power lines, head craned skyward, trying to sort out at least one clear bird song from the music filling the air. It was impossible; all the songs of many species, and several members of many of those species, mingled and combined to form one continuous stream of notes and calls. And yet, my friend Barbara was naming birds right and left, and ahead, and overhead. How did she do it?

That was me a month ago, even though I had been listening to my bird song CD’s for weeks (and off and on for years). I loved the chorus of mingled song, but it was frustrating not to be able to identify the singers. But then one evening a couple of weeks ago when I was out walking with Stephen and Arielle, I began hearing individual birds… and sometimes even recognizing their songs! It was as though I had been immersed in an unknown language for long enough and finally the sounds were beginning to make sense and have meaning.

I heard a Black-throated Green warbler back in the tall Vermont spruces, then a Hermit Thrush in the shrubs on the other side of the road. I was unable to spot the Warbler because of the thick trees, but it was especially satisfying to enjoy his song, knowing who was singing. We did see the Hermit Thrush, peering at us through low branches and we saw many Red-winged Blackbirds. I heard then spotted a pair of Bluebirds flying overhead. In between happy family conversation, I found I was able to pick out many of the songs I was hearing.

I went to bed happily thinking of birds and awoke early realizing a Brown Thrasher was singing outside our window. It was so cool to wake up naming a bird that I was hearing in my sleep. I don’t hear or see Brown Thrashers around my house, so it was a treat to hear this one singing from the top of a nearby treeearly in the morning and for most of the day.

I still can’t hear or name the birds nearly as well as Barbara can, but I now know it is possible to learn this musical language. I will be listening to my Birding By Ear and More Birding By Ear CD’s eagerly, with more confidence now that I can assimilate these songs into my vocabulary.

Brown Thrasher opening the day with song