Beloved Birds and Sounds of Autumn – Marin Independent Journal


At the end of September, it’s time to listen to the magical sounds that announce autumn. If you’re used to listening to the birds, the past few months may have seemed increasingly calm and uneventful as the birdsong of spring and summer faded away. Where sunrise in April saw a burst of music, the early hours of an early September day bring only much reduced chatter, the occasional “chip” notes of a California tohi or the hum of a hummingbird. But now fall is coming and new sounds are entering the neighborhood. Here are five of my favorites.

“I’m mmmmmm so tiiiiired.” One morning, three high notes resound, clear descending whistles that pierce the autumn air. It’s the song of the Golden-crowned Sparrow, our most aural bird of the season. Three descending notes are classic, but you’ll often only hear the first two notes, and sometimes a rearranged pattern descending and then rising to the mid tone. Soon you’ll see them too – slightly stocky birds, feeding on the soil of suburban neighborhoods and weedy fields, each wearing a golden crown, bright yellow in breeding plumage, but dull and dull for most of their life. time here.

Another clear whistle sounded, but this time only one. Rather than the following one or two notes from the golden-crowned sparrow, this opening whistle is followed by a varying jumble of notes, often tending generally downward. (A “pellet” is hard to describe in words. Listen to some examples of this bird and others on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website or in its free Merlin Bird ID app.) This is the parent and companion of the gold-crowned: the white-crowned sparrow. Generally similar in size, shape, and habits, white-crowned sparrows are even more common in most neighborhoods and can be recognized by their black and white stripes on their heads.

“Jid-dit! Jid-dit!” These two-syllable calls are repeated vigorously by a bird that typically competes for the highest vigor-to-size ratio: the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. While sparrows are the main seed-eating migrants in In the fall there are a few insectivorous songbirds that roam our winter woods, of which this wren is probably the most common.These tiny, easily overlooked little dynamos are constantly jostling around the foliage in search of suitably tiny prey. Don’t expect to see their namesake crown, however, it’s usually hidden except when the birds are agitated or excited.

“Kyeer! A loud trumpet of a call sounded, an accented and resonant note. It’s not a little hiss, buzz or chatter under the bushes; it’s a bugle ringing from the other end of the street and bursting through your windows. This call belongs to the Northern Flicker, a large and unusual woodpecker that nests in modest numbers in the woods of Marin, but becomes much more common in winter as birds from higher elevations or higher latitudes disperse into the lowlands. , entering both natural and residential habitats. neighborhoods. Unlike most of our woodpeckers, the sparkles are not black and white, but a beautiful copper color, with dramatic black circles on the chest, a black bib under the chin, and red sparkles under the wings that they reveal in flight.

“Sree…sree…srree. A layered series of thin, lisping trills or whistles is faintly heard from somewhere above. These are high, high pitched notes, almost out of hearing range for some people. But as long as you can hear them, what they say is “cedar wax wings”. They are perhaps the most fantastical of all our winter birds: bold black masks cover their eyes, dramatic crests top their heads, and brilliant flecks of red and yellow adorn their feathers. And yet, waxwings are stealthy and unpredictable, traveling in flocks between berry trees, and are often overlooked.

So how do you find waxwings? The same way you notice when the sparrows first appear, or when the wrens have come endlessly around the leaves, or when the twinkles settle down that street you thought you knew. You listen, listen to new sounds that you haven’t heard the week and month before.

The birds in our lives are constantly changing and they’ll let you know if you’re listening.

Jack Gedney’s On the Wing airs every other Monday. He is co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Novato and author of “The Private Lives of Public Birds”. You can reach him at [email protected]


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