If I had a blog, today I would write about my family’s tendency to go on lyrics-safari when it comes to bird songs. It might be because we are a creative and humorous lot, but most of the time its a need for common sense ; a trait that sometimes seems lacking in the world of birding professionals.
Now, I grant you it is hard to put words to a melody that is not your own, especially when the composer is of the avian species, but when I read the description of bird calls in field guides and online, I wonder, “What were they thinking?” For example, how many of us really think the brown thrasher sounds like he’s saying “plant a seed, plant a seed, bury it, bury it, cover it up, cover it up, let it grow, let it grow, pull it up, pull it up, eat it, eat it?” I think that’s pretty ambitious even for a smart bird like the thrasher. So, in the face of this mishmash of lyrics, my family simply makes up our own “bird-words” and thus far, it has served us well.
First, there is The Weecher Bird, aka the Carolina Wren. I know this because it is the alarm that wakes me each morning, rain or shine. Miss Carolina sits outside my bedroom window and blasts me with her morning aria.”Weecher! Weecher! Weecher!” she proclaims over and over. Whatever it means in wren-speak, it certainly gets my blood flowing. According to “the experts,” the Carolina says “teakettle-teakettle” or “Germany-Germany,” but I assure you, my wren is using a song-book from a different conservatory.
Next we have The Tornado Bird, aka Tufted Titmouse. As a severe weather aficionado, I’ve tested this somewhat ominous lyric and amhappy to report it does not correlate with the onset of storms.That said, if the titmice of the world could learn to forecast the weather, they would give meteorology an big push forward. In the meantime, I guess we’ll have to rely on Weather Underground to keep us informed.
Another name for the Titmouse is The Stupid Bird: This should, in no way, impugn the intelligence of my little grey friends. No, no. This song was written just for me. When Mr. Titmouse sings this song, his accuracy is depressingly accurate. The rapid-fire solo of “stupid-stupid-stupid!” is performed most often when I am working on some hare-brained carpentry project at the barn and, believe me little bird, you aren’t telling me anything I didn’t already know.
There is one more song that seems to rise above the others lately. It is the well known “what-cheer, what-cheer,” of the Northern Cardinal. In the past, I have been on the bandwagon with those who feel uplifted by this happy song, but this year, it is a cover for one particularly deranged red-bird.
The cardinal in question is obsessed with his reflection in car mirrors. We assume he thinks it is another bird, one he must drive out of his territory, but before we knew it, Mr. What Cheer had vandalized three of our vehicles to the point we had to have the mirrors replaced. We now keep the mirrors covered with removable bags, but I no longer feel my spirits lift when I hear the cardinal greet the day. I guess its true that “one bad apple (or cardinal) spoils the lot.”
With the fall migration coming on, I will soon be bombarded with new bird songs. I will hear the White-Throated Sparrow as he sings, “Oh-sweet-canada-canada,” the Dark-Eyed Junco’s “musical trill of 7-23 notes that resembles the Chipping Sparrow, the Pine Warbler and the Goldfinch” and the Field Sparrow, whose song is described as “having the quality of a bouncing ball coming to rest.” I will be dumbfounded on a regular basis and although I will carry a field guide on my treks, I will be making notes in the margins; making my contribution to the worlds of music and bird watching as only one who knows The Weecher Bird can.