The "alone" part in my entry title is for two reasons: First, Kat left yesterday and is now in Europe at a conference, and Em left last week to visit Kat's parents, so I'm all alone in the old Marsh House. *sniffle!* Second is the meat of this blog entry. Please read on, and forgive the lack of photos; Kat took it to take pics in Europe.
I've talked a few times about going birding with Roana and Nan from the State College birding club, and how phenomenal they are at birding by ear -- listening, hearing, and identifying all sorts of birds just by their songs and/or calls. Tonight, on my way home, I decided to take the scenic route home and go through some of the routes in one of Roana's atlas blocks. As it was about 8pm and getting dark fast, I had to use my ears instead of my eyes most of the time. Here's what I was able to hear; I couldn't always ID it, but these are my best-effort transcriptions of what I heard:
1. preet preet peer peer reet-reet-reet-reet-reet-reet That last "reet-reet" part is a long, slow trilling, almost like a swamp sparrow does. The call was always the same, always these three distinct sounds, in this complete pattern, uttered fairly quickly but certainly slowly enough for me to hear note. At the time, I was next to a grassy area but could see no birds. I was in open and fairly flat valley grasslands and farmland.
2. dut-tweedully-tweedully-tzee-tzay That first part isn't shown very well, but it was a fast twittering with a sequence of a hard first note, then two quick triplets, then the see-say of the Savannah sparrow. Here again, I was still in the open grassland/farmland area. The only reason I even recognized this one is that Hillel at work called me the other day and asked me to come outside to the parking lot to hear one of these, but when I got out there, the bird had gone already. But that's how I recognized the call: his rendering of the twittering and then the see-say. A lot of the texts say that first part is more like zut-zut-zut, but my guy sounded like what I have written here. Who knows why.
3. witchety-witchety-witchety-witch This one, I know well: common yellowthroat. By now, I'd started going into the woodsier areas, where there were some fields and some large woodlots dividing them. I've yet to actually see a yellowthroat, but I think there's one nesting either in the yew tree outside my bedroom window or in Neighbor Ed's huge maple tree. He sounds like he's in the yew, though; he's LOUD. I want to see him, though; I think these birds are beautiful.
3. teakettle-teakettle-teakettle Now I was next to a densely wooded area, and for once I heard this song and the witchety song, one near the other. There was a distinct difference in the two songs, and I'm pretty sure this one was the Carolina wren's teakettle song. Either that or this yellowthroat was British and uppity.
4. pee-oh-wee An easy one: Eastern wood pewee. I like this song; it echoed out of the dense woods.
5. the crazy twittering and tweaking and mewing of a catbird; I had help on this one: he landed in the tree right next to the road at eye level, just next to a wheat field. Love that dashing little black cap! Of course, let's not forget I once had a close encounter with one of these guys, so I'm still a little shy around them.
I did actually see (but didn't hear) two birds I couldn't ID. The first was sparrow-like, flying away from me into a cornfield, and his tail was medium-length, broadly spread, and was brown with black edges. Anyone care to venture a guess on this one? It's a pretty meager clue to work with, but it's all I got. The second one looked like the ugliest robin I'd ever seen; no red on the chest, just splotchy brown and gray, two wing bars on dusky gray wings, gray back; otherwise, his body and shape seemed like those of a robin. Perhaps it was a slow-developing immature of some sort? I don't know, but I felt bad for this bird; if it's a male, he'd better forget about getting any action this year!
The rest of the birds I saw were pretty easy to ID: a lot of tree and barn swallows, some red-winged blackbirds, mourning doves, robins, grackles, etc. I was hoping to see an Eastern meadowlark but had no luck with that.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable 45 minutes spent birding by ear, alone.
OH--P.S. While googling things like "see-say" to make sure I remembered "Savannah sparrow" correctly, or "teakettle teakettle" is a Carolina sparrow, I found two great things:
1. A hilarious google response to witchety-witchety:
I'm throwing out all your shit, and changing the locks! Scrubbly grubbly scribbly wiggly witchety man! Witchety witchety man! ... www.outpostnine.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-5723.html - 6k - Supplemental Result -
I still haven't followed that link yet. I think it's perfect exactly the way it is, without finding out the rest of whatever this person said to this "scrubbly grubbly wiggly witchety man!"
2. a fantastic list of common mnemonics for bird songs! http://www.stanford.edu/~kendric/birds/birdsong.html Check it out!