Friday, May 18, 2007

Putting Names to Voices

It is morning: after the first stir, before the second alarm. The window is open. I have been reading, but now I lie still, wondering at the chorus of voices from those whose work begins much earlier than mine.

I sort out the many separate songs and wait for the names to come, but there are few. The clay-coloured sparrow, of course: an un-birdlike buzz, so much less musical than the rest, and yet I cherish that voice as one that I can always name. There are several lovely melodies, captivating while I listen, but indescribable and even beyond recollection just a few moments later. One keeps ending with a suspiciously familiar chirp, and I wrestle with the startling idea that it might be the voice of a plain old house sparrow. There is a yellow warbler - "sweet, sweet, sweet, please some more sweet" - that one I know. Up front and insistent, over and over, there is an emphatic little song that rises repeatedly to a higher and louder tone. I want to picture the bird stamping his tiny foot as he sings, but that would make him tippy, so instead I imagine him beating his wings against his body in time with his tirade. There comes a snatch of familiar tones - is that a robin? Out beyond it all, when I listen for it, I hear the beloved tune of a meadowlark, the song that everyone knows.

Why that song? Why, with so many songs rippling by unnamed, why do we know that one?

I suppose it returns to us early in the spring, before the chorus becomes overwhelming. And it rings out to us often from a fence post or a power pole, out in the wide fields where the songs are fewer.

I hope someone can tell me who that emphatic little singer might be. If I could learn just one more name today...

4 comments:

Clare said...

One thing that has always amazed me about the Meadowlark's voice is how you can hear them while driving in a car at 100 km/hr. What is it about their voice that defies the white noise environment of a speeding vehicle? It can't just be volume.

arcolaura said...

Yes, it has a penetrating quality to it. Purity of pitch? Maybe you could check it out on the sonogram?

Deb said...

I remember Western meadowlarks from my graduate school days in South Dakota. We could hear them as we drove in the truck with air conditioning on and windows rolled up.

I'm stalking an emphatic little singer myself; I've been through bird song guides on the Web, read song descriptions in my field guide, and I am befuddled.

arcolaura said...

I've been thinking about your little singer, Deb. Sounds like it's a quite distinctive melody, and it's not bringing anything to mind. You get quite a few birds that we never see here, though.