Mystery Bird Returns to the Homestead

By , June 2, 2011

As I wrote last year, I have to relearn most of the local bird songs each year in order to identify them. This year, I seem to have lost one of them. The song is extremely familiar to me, so I know this bird visits us every year. In fact, it could be a year ’round resident. I just can’t put a name to it. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to see the bird, which would help a lot. In fact, if I could see it, I might find that it’s one I know. If not, I can always consult the bird books.

Looking for the song itself in the books is fruitless. I generally distrust the common onomatopoetic bird song phrases found in many birding books, because they don’t help much with the tones, and are too open to interpretation. After all, one person’s kezeetle is another person’s frrlptz.

And yet, in trying to describe it to others, I have to fall back on the same faulty methods. My mystery bird has a buzzy, wheezy song that rises in pitch, making a sound like whizzy whizzy wee wee WEE! That’s not helpful at all, is it?

I need to return to our bird song compendium, Leonard J. Peyton’s CD set, Bird Songs of Alaska (ask your local bookstore, they’ll probably have to special order). I’ve been through it briefly, using likely bird species, but have had no luck. I’ve proposed a family activity that involves all of us sitting down, each with a different bird book, and listening to the whole 2-CD set, comparing bird illustrations as each one appears. This is not solely to identify the mystery bird, but to refresh our memories on all of the birds we hear around the homestead. Everyone wants to do this, but we’re waiting for a really rainy, hunker down day, which we haven’t had in ages. In the meantime, I’m craning my neck, wracking my brain, and trying to imitate the bird to friends. I’ll get it eventually, and when I do, I’ll update this post with the bird’s identity.

The bird is the Townshend’s Warbler. I’ve needed to remember o associate this song with this bird every spring since writing this post!

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