Friday, August 19, 2011

Southern Accents in Birdworld--Who Knew?


Lake Junaluska introduced me to the song sparrow.  I suppose I had heard it all my life but had accepted it with the blur of the whole and never isolated its song.  This particular fellow outside my window overlooking the lake was not to be ignored.  He was my alarm clock, my writing background music, the noon whistle, afternoon delight, dinner music, evening serenade, and lullaby.

Likely with a nest nearby, he always repeated the same cadence, tone, and pitch of his rising and falling song.  It was two years ago in May of 2009.  I was on a writing retreat for silence and solitude, working on ch. 8,9,10 (and remember the angst well).  I got to know his song so well I copied it on my flute, and later on the piano, but only barely mentioned it in one my first blogposts.

I remember it, because I worked intentionally to understand the song of a song sparrow, and thought I did.  Wrong. When I got home I heard another puff-puff-bzzz-like song, but it had a very different ending pattern from my Lake J guy.  I thought it was a different variety of sparrow, maybe a vesper, but definitely not the song sparrow I knew so well.  I was confident in my self-discovered knowledge, until the visiting Dr. Lisa Zinn, birder extraordinaire, and my lovely future daughter-in-law, confirmed that the bird I heard at home was indeed a song sparrow.

From Lisa I learned that the "introductory notes" are the identifying feature, that song sparrows have different "accents" in different parts of the country, and that it almost doesn't matter what comes at the end.  If it puffs, it's a song sparrow.

Fast forward to Lake Junaluska, Aug, 2011, retreating in same house, now working on ch. 33 (more angst).  Come the puffs and buzzes and bingo!  A very different ending pattern.  Thank you, once again, Dr. Zinn.  Another example of a bit of knowledge being the tip of the iceberg---the enticement only to learn more.  dkm


bibi said...

I spent some wonderful weekends in high school at Lake Junaluska, and I would love to go back.
I am sitting here reading blogs now on Lake Martin, watching a turtle bob up and down in front of me, feeling like I sold out getting internet and wireless here...

Jane Robertson said...

Birds have 'accents' - wonderful. Vive la différence in birds and humans!