Vol. 2, No. 3 – Bird Song – September

American Yellow Warbler (Dendroica aestiva) singing by J Fenton

American Yellow Warbler (Dendroica aestiva) singing by J Fenton

BIRD SONG.

How songs are made
Is a mystery,
Which studied for years
Still baffles me.
—R. H. Stoddard.

imgs

OME birds are poets and sing all summer,” says Thoreau. “They are the true singers. Any man can write verses in the love season. We are most interested in those birds that sing for the love of music, and not of their mates; who meditate their strains and amuse themselves with singing; the birds whose strains are of deeper sentiment.”

Thoreau does not mention by name any of the poet-birds to which he alludes, but we think our selections for the present month include some of them. The most beautiful specimen of all, which is as rich in color and “sun-sparkle” as the most polished gem to which he owes his name, the Ruby-throated Humming Bird, cannot sing at all, uttering only a shrill mouse-like squeak. The humming sound made by his wings is far more agreeable than his voice, for “when the mild gold stars flower out” it announces his presence. Then

“A dim shape quivers about
Some sweet rich heart of a rose.”

He hovers over all the flowers that possess the peculiar sweetness that he loves—the blossoms of the honeysuckle, the red, the white, and the yellow roses, and the morning glory. The red clover is as sweet to him as to the honey bee, and a pair of them may often be seen hovering over the blossoms for a moment, and then disappearing with the quickness of a flash of light, soon to return to the same spot and repeat the performance. Squeak, squeak! is probably their call note.

Something of the poet is the Yellow Warbler, though his song is not quite as long as an epic. He repeats it a little too often, perhaps, but there is such a pervading cheerfulness about it that we will not quarrel with the author. Sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet-sweeter-sweeter! is his frequent contribution to the volume of nature, and all the while he is darting about the trees, “carrying sun-glints on his back wherever he goes.” His song is appropriate to every season, but it is in the spring, when we hear it first, that it is doubly welcome to the ear. The grateful heart asks with Bourdillon:

“What tidings hath the Warbler heard
That bids him leave the lands of summer
For woods and fields where April yields
Bleak welcome to the blithe newcomer?”

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) by Quy Tran

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) by Quy Tran

The Mourning Dove may be called the poet of melancholy, for its song is, to us, without one element of cheerfulness. Hopeless despair is in every note, and, as the bird undoubtedly does have cheerful moods, as indicated by its actions, its song must be appreciated only by its mate. Coo-o, coo-o! suddenly thrown upon the air and resounding near and far is something hardly to be extolled, we should think, and yet the beautiful and graceful Dove possesses so many pretty ways that every one is attracted to it, and the tender affection of the mated pair is so manifest, and their constancy so conspicuous, that the name has become a symbol of domestic concord.

The Cuckoo must utter his note in order to be recognized, for few that are learned in bird lore can discriminate him save from his notes. He proclaims himself by calling forth his own name, so that it is impossible to make a mistake about him. Well, his note is an agreeable one and has made him famous. As he loses his song in the summer months, he is inclined to make good use of it when he finds it again. English boys are so skillful in imitating the Cuckoo’s song, which they do to an exasperating extent, that the bird himself may often wish for that of the Nightingale, which is inimitable.

But the Cuckoo’s song, monotonous as it is, is decidedly to be preferred to that of the female House Wren, with its Chit-chit-chit-chit, when suspicious or in anger. The male, however, is a real poet, let us say—and sings a merry roulade, sudden, abruptly ended, and frequently repeated. He sings, apparently, for the love of music, and is as merry and gay when his mate is absent as when she is at his side, proving that his singing is not solely for her benefit.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) by BirdingPix

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) by BirdingPix

So good an authority as Dr. Coues vouches for the exquisite vocalization of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Have you ever heard a wire vibrating? Such is the call note of the Ruby, thin and metallic. But his song has a fullness, a variety, and a melody, which, being often heard in the spring migration, make this feathered beauty additionally attractive. Many of the fine songsters are not brilliantly attired, but this fellow has a combination of attractions to commend him as worthy of the bird student’s careful attention.

Of the Hermit Thrush, whose song is celebrated, we will say only, “Read everything you can find about him.” He will not be discovered easily, for even Olive Thorne Miller, who is presumed to know all about birds, tells of her pursuit of the Hermit in northern New York, where it was said to be abundant, and finding, when she looked for him, that he had always “been there” and was gone. But one day in August she saw the bird and heard the song and exclaimed: “This only was lacking—this crowns my summer.”

Song Sparrow

Phoebe

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) by Matt Wagner

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) by Matt Wagner

White-breasted Nuthatch

The Song Sparrow can sing too, and the Phoebe, beloved of man, and the White-breasted Nuthatch, a little. They do not require the long-seeking of the Hermit Thrush, whose very name implies that he prefers to flock by himself, but can be seen in our parks throughout the season. But the Sparrow loves the companionship of man, and has often been a solace to him. It is stated by the biographer of Kant, the great metaphysician, that at the age of eighty he had become indifferent to much that was passing around him in which he had formerly taken great interest. The flowers showed their beautious hues to him in vain; his weary vision gave little heed to their loveliness; their perfume came unheeded to the sense which before had inhaled it with eagerness. The coming on of spring, which he had been accustomed to hail with delight, now gave him no joy save that it brought back a little Sparrow, which came annually and made its home in a tree that stood by his window. Year after year, as one generation went the way of all the earth, another would return to its birth-place to reward the tender care of their benefactor by singing to him their pleasant songs. And he longed for their return in the spring with “an eagerness and intensity of expectation.”

How many provisions nature has for keeping us simple-hearted and child-like! The Song Sparrow is one of them.

—C. C. Marble.

(All recording are from xeno-canto.org)


Lee’s Addition:

Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches. (Psalms 104:12 ESV)

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalms 40:3 ESV)

Variety is the spice of life, or so they say. I agree. The Lord has given each species their own unique way of singing and making vocal sounds. They are as varied as we are. Some people can sing beautifully and some are like me who make more of a “joyful noise.”

It was a challenge to round up the recordings and select the ones I wanted. I trust you enjoy them as well as I do.

*

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for September 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

*

(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Yellow Warbler

The Previous Article – Gambel’s Partridge

Sharing The Gospel

Links:

xeno-canto.org

Birds Vol 2 #1 – Bird Song~July

Good ground - American Yellow Warbler (Dendroica aestiva) by J Fenton

American Yellow Warbler (Dendroica aestiva) by J Fenton

Vol. II. No. 1. JULY, 1897.

BIRD SONG.

imgi
T SHOULD not be overlooked by the young observer that if he would learn to recognize at once any particular bird, he should make himself acquainted with the song and call notes of every bird around him. The identification, however, of the many feathered creatures with which we meet in our rambles has heretofore required so much patience, that, though a delight to the enthusiast, few have time to acquire any great intimacy with them. To get this acquaintance with the birds, the observer has need to be prepared to explore perilous places, to climb lofty trees, and to meet with frequent mishaps. To be sure if every veritable secret of their habits is to be pried into, this pursuit will continue to be plied as patiently as it has ever been. The opportunity, however, to secure a satisfactory knowledge of bird song and bird life by a most delightful method has at last come to every one.

A gentleman who has taken a great interest in Birds from the appearance of the first number, but whose acquaintance with living birds is quite limited, visited one of our parks a few days ago, taking with him the latest number of the magazine. His object, he said, was to find there as many of the living forms of the specimens represented as he could. “Seating myself amidst a small grove of trees, what was my delight at seeing a Red Wing alight on a telegraph wire stretching across the park. Examining the picture in Birds I was somewhat disappointed to find that the live specimen was not so brilliantly marked as in the picture. Presently, however, another Blackbird alighted near, who seemed to be the veritable presentment of the photograph. Then it occurred to me that I had seen the Red Wing before, without knowing its name. It kept repeating a rich, juicy note, oncher-la-ree-e! its tail tetering at quick intervals. A few days later I observed a large number of Red Wings near the Hyde Park water works, in the vicinity of which, among the trees and in the marshes, I also saw many other birds unknown to me. With Birds in my hands, I identified the Robin, who ran along the ground quite close to me, anon summoning with his beak the incautious angle worm to the surface. The Jays were noisy and numerous, and I observed many new traits in the Wood Thrush, so like the Robin that I was at first in some doubt about it. I heard very few birds sing that day, most of them being busy in search of food for their young.”

[continued on page 17.]

BIRD SONG—Continued from page 1.

Many of our singing birds may be easily identified by any one who carries in his mind the images which are presented in our remarkable pictures. See the birds at home, as it were, and hear their songs.

Those who fancy that few native birds live in our parks will be surprised to read the following list of them now visible to the eyes of so careful an observer as Mr. J. Chester Lyman.

“About the 20th of May I walked one afternoon in Lincoln Park with a friend whose early study had made him familiar with birds generally, and we noted the following varieties:

1  Magnolia Warbler.
2  Yellow Warbler.
3  Black Poll Warbler. (Black-polled Yellowthroat)
4  Black-Throated Blue Warbler.
5  Black-Throated Queen Warbler. (Black-throated Green Warbler?)
6  Blackburnian Warbler.
7  Chestnut-sided Warbler.
8  Golden-crowned Thrush.
9  Wilson’s Thrush. (Veery)
10 Song Thrush.
11 Catbird. (Grey)
12 Bluebird. (Eastern)
13 Kingbird. (Eastern)
14 Least Fly Catcher. (Flycatcher)
15 Wood Pewee Fly Catcher. (Eastern Wood Pewee)
16 Great Crested Fly Catcher. (Flycatcher)
17 Red-eyed Vireo.
18 Chimney Swallow. (Chimney Swift)
19 Barn Swallow.
20 Purple Martin.
21 Red Start. (American Redstart)
22 House Wren.
23 Purple Grackle. (Common)
24 White-throated Sparrow.
25 Song Sparrow.
26 Robin. (American)
27 Blue Jay.
28 Red-Headed Woodpecker.
29 Kingfisher. (Belted)
30 Night Hawk. (Common)
31 Yellow-Billed Cuckoo.
32 Scarlet Tanager, Male and Female.
33 Gull, or Wilson’s Tern. (Common Tern)
34 The Omni-present English Sparrow. (House)

“On a similar walk, one week earlier, we saw about the same number of varieties, including, however, the Yellow Breasted Chat, and the Mourning, Bay Breasted, and Blue Yellow Backed Warblers.”

The sweetest songsters are easily accessible, and all may enjoy their presence.

C. C. Marble.


House Sparrow by Ray

Lee’s Addition:

You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches. (Psalms 104:10-12 ESV)

I added links to xeno-canto.org for the sound of the birds on the list. It took awhile to figure out what some of the birds are called today. I am sure some are incorrect, but did my best. I used the “song” recordings where available and a few of the “call” ones where either the birds don’t sing or no recording is available.

They each have a distinct sound even as an instrument does.

Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? (1 Corinthians 14:7-8 NKJV)

If the birds changed songs all the time, how would they find mates, defend their territory, or know the sound of an enemy? Isn’t the Lord gracious in the way He designed the birds to sing so uniquely.

Listening to them was actually quite enjoyable. They each have their own way of communicating to their fellow birds and/or enemies.

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for May 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

*

(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Canvas-back Duck

Previous Article – The Mallard Duck

Gospel Message

Links:

xeno-canto.org – Birds Sounds of the World

*