Friday, June 17, 2011

Tree Music

Black-throated "Green" Warbler
(Pic by Dan  Pancamo)
About a month ago, there was a profusion of birds in my favorite park. There were four Scarlet Tanagers hanging around on their way to wherever they go to nest. There was a Bay-breasted Warbler, a seemingly bottomless supply of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-and-White Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, even a Yellow-breasted Chat. There were so many Black-throated Yellow Warblers (I know they're Black-throated Greens, but doing their little song that reminds me of when I had to do the cha cha at ballroom dancing classes at school when I was 12 -- cha-cha, cha-cha-cha. I imagined them up in the tree tops dancing with little maracas. (I had just been to see Rio that week.) And there were vireos.

Most of the migrant songbirds blew through, stopping for just a day or two to refuel on the bugs in the park. But two Red-eyed Vireos have stayed. They sing nonstop. Really, nonstop. This is one of them, doing a duet with a train in the distance.

Every morning I would hear them -- one at one end of the park, another at the other end. "Hello...How are you? I'm fine...what're doin'?" over and over and over. I assumed they just sung like this in the morning. So I went in at lunchtime. "I don't know...How are you? I'm fine...what're doin'?" Still going. I went mid-morning. Afternoon another day. Early evening the next. Still going. When do they find time to eat? Exactly how many bugs do you have to eat to fuel all that singing and hopping along branches? Please tell me they don't do it at night.

At first it was a little maddening that I could hear this beautiful music yet so rarely see them. I would be standing under their trees and see just this --

Singing leaves!

Today was a day of nonstop thunderstorms and torrential rain, one cell rolling in after another, and this evening as the sun was setting and the thunder was still rumbling in the distance I was in the park for five minutes, and all I could hear was a Red-winged Blackbird. Part of me went "Ha ha! See, you can't sing all the time!" Most of me went "Oh. You can't sing all the time." Then just as I was about to leave, there it was, ringing out "Hello, how are you..." Truly, nothing stops these birds.

The sound is so loud and clear when I stand beneath one of their trees. I crane my neck. Surely the bird must be right, just leaves. I do catch a glimpse of them every now and then, but mostly what I have come to love is the moment when I walk through the park entrance, hit the trail, and yes, they are still there, calling their hearts out.