Friday, April 6, 2012

"Poor Wee Me!" - Putting song and bird together

Often in winter I hear this bird song - a descending trio of notes that sounds rather sad. I dubbed it "Poor wee me!" as a mnemonic. Everyone hears their own thing. To me the quail call is "Potato!" but most people seem to hear "Chicago!"

I wondered if I'd ever put these sad sliding notes together with a bird. I hear so many bird songs whose birds I don't yet know. I just try to pay attention, knowing that eventually I'll see the bird actually singing, or I'll stumble on the connection - and so gradually, knowledge grows. I have made about a dozen connections so far. So satisfying - so slow though!

On a recent fine morning, I decided to make use of my dad's excellent Canon 4D camera and 400mm zoom lens, finally. I sat in the garden with it, watching some little sparrows quietly congregate in the oak trees next to the pool fence. I enjoyed seeing how their groups form, how one seemed to sit and watch while the others foraged for insects among the leaves. Or was it just that that one was taking a rest? It's fun to speculate - questions are little hooks where knowledge can later catch hold.

I got a couple shots good enough for ID:

It was only when I looked at the photos that I saw


The golden crown!

Ah! I had heard of a bird called the golden crowned sparrow - and so it was that I came to find out that its sad little call is generally known as "Oh dear me!"

There's a nice article on this bird (aka Zonotrichia atricapilla)  in Bay Nature magazine here. They come down from the north west, to winter in California - travelling up to 4,000 miles - and about a quarter of them come to exactly the same spot each year.

And here for your delight and edification is a short Youtube video in which you too can hear its plaintive call.


(Thank you RainyIslandGuy)

2 comments:

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Very nice find. I don't think I've heard that call here. One of the most distinctive ones I hear in mid-late spring is the Hermit Thrush. This fellow though, does have a rather obvious and melancholic call. I think it's one I'd definitely notice if I heard it. I'll have to keep my ears open.

Country Mouse said...

I don't think we get hermit thrush up here on the ridge. Not sure. It amazes me how localized birds can be. We don't get flickers up here but down slope 100 yards, neighbors do.
There is a lovely youtube video showing the hermit thrush singing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9vHS6JdHog

But it's from somewhere in the East. If you come back here, Clare, could you listen and tell me if this is what you hear? I found a diffnt youtube of the golden crown sparrow than I put on the post - it had more of an up down up trio - but maybe that's the sparrow's summer song? - came from some place back east too.