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What my neighbour is teaching me about birds

by MartinGarner on November 30, 2010 · 3 comments

in Birding Asia

Top photo: Crossbill (vocal type unknown), Bashkino, Moscow region, Russia. 17th November 2007. Sergey Yeliseev.

Bird sound is a fascinating aspect of our interest in birds. The longer I have been birding the more I realise that the majority of the time, it is bird calls and song that attract my attention, often well before the visual stimulus.  Last week I recorded several different Crossbill vocal types locally to me.  Parakeet Crossbill, British Crossbill and Glip Crossbill were all heard and confirmed by sonogram. In North American there are another 9 vocal types, which it is argued may well behave and should be regarded as full species. My 3 Crossbill types were, intriguingly, all in distinct groups. Recording bird sound is relatively new to me- indeed a whole world of discovery!

Recording of a flock of ‘Glip Crossbills‘ (long vertical tick shapes) with a Red Grouse calling in background (double row of dark blobs at lower pitch), near Sheffield UK, November 2010

I never know where new learning is going to come from. There are only 16 houses on my road, and I suppose I thought of myself as the ‘bird expert’ of the street. Indeed I assumed there were no other birders on the street.  Little did I know! Last summer 2 of my neighbours, Geoff and Corolla, to my complete surprise, invited me to go and for an evening walk to look for Nightjars. Nightjars! I am the streets only birder!  I had no idea they would have even heard of a Nightjar, never mind know where to stake one out.

Having been surprised once, I still wasn’t expecting last weeks conversation. Geoff came over as I got out of my car to tell me about his favourite bird song. Robin? Nightingale? No. Musician Wren.

Musician Wren? I am sure Gunnar knows about this South America species, but I had never heard of it. Geoff’s favourite bird song and he guided me to have a listen to it on Xeno-Canto (bird sound website). By now I was floored.

Well hats off to Geoff and a rebuke to me for my ignorant assumptions about my neighbours.  It’s clear that the more I learn the more I realise how little I know – about both birds and my neighbours!

Just in case you have never heard the song of a Musician Wren, it is pretty cool. Have a listen and see why Geoff likes it.

And my favourite bird sound ever? Have a look at this:

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

DaleForbes November 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm

very cool post and that musician wren has a wonderful forest bird call. I am sure it carries a long way. it reminds me of some of the southern african robin chats


Tom McK November 30, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Martin, I’ve heard Musician Wren. August 2006, we were walking the Tinamou Trail at Pantiacolla Lodge in Manu, it was just after a cold weather system had passed through the lowlands and the birding had unfortunately slowed down a bit. We were heading back to the lodge for some breakfast when I was certain I heard one singing distantly. It was pretty faint, so we gave it a quick blast of playback, and about 30 seconds later it had moved really close and sang for ages. Never managed to see it, but that just didn’t matter. Fantastic song.


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