If the birds don’t know…

8 05 2009

Chipping Sparrow - Luke Tiller

what chance do we have? I had an amusing and interesting experience in my yard this morning where I was messing with my iPod. In theory I can have Worm-eating, Pine and Chipping Sparrow all nesting around my yard (I was pleased to confirm the nesting Pine gathering nesting material a week or so back). Anyway I was listening to what might have been a Worm-eating calling down the slope in my yard. Not wanting to go trampling down the slope which is steep and fairly dangerous I came up with a idea, I’d play my iPod and see if the Worm-eating responded and hopefully get a feel if the bird was back this spring after a year without them in 2008. Anyway as I set up my iPod and played the song I suddenly had a bird zoom straight in and almost take off my head. As I looked into the apple tree where it had alighted after buzzing me I realised it was one of the local Chippers. He continued to act agitated with the Worm-eating playing so I switched off the iPod and just watched him. He sat there for another minute or two singing vociferously and perhaps a little triumphantly (having driven off the other bird), before he decided to move on. I know these three songs are pretty similar but it was fascinating to me that even the birds themselves might at some point be confused by similar sounding calls.

To here the three birds songs check out Pine (here), Chipping Sparrow (here) and Worm-eating Warbler (here). Interesting to compare the three songs. When I am trying to make an ID on song of these three the general rule is that the Chipping Sparrow has a long flat rattley call – much like song 2 on the Cornell site (from California). It often ends very abrubtly as well. Pine usually is ‘sweeter’ and more musical sounding to my ear and often tails off as if on a fade out setting. Of course the first track on the Cornell site from West Virginia has that slightly ‘sweeter’ sound which makes the ID somewhat harder but does at least have the abrupt end that I associate with Chippings. If you compare the Worm-eating it is much more similar to the California recording of the Chipping and has many of the same qualities. To my ear it is a little buzzier (often described as more insect-like), but it can be tough. Habitat often helps with making an ID with these two I find,with Chipping unlikely to be found in deep woodland settings . It’ makes me feel better to know that the birds themselves sometimes find it tough 😉



2 responses

12 05 2009
Mike Ferrari

Did you spring for the Canon 400mm prime? Or is this a digiscoped pic? Your recent photos are great! (I’m secretly eyeing the 100-400mm, but please don’t tell my wife….)

18 05 2009

Hi Mike,

I have on loan the 1D and 100-400m zoom. Fairly pleased with some of the results so far, but still there is much to learn.


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