listening

One thing that’s really struck me over the last few weeks is that the cityscape feels quieter than I remember it before the pandemic. I don’t always notice this, though in some ways I’m starting to get used to it and I’m appreciating that calm. What really highlights it for me is hearing more birds than I’m used to. I don’t think it’s because there are more birds or that they’re more active, but because there’s a quieter background — less traffic, especially. It’s a lot like how we can see more stars when there’s a dark sky.

A friendly teacher and scientist, Eleanor, shared a video this morning of some bird calls from her back porch that she always hears but couldn’t identify:

Make sure you have the sound turned on so you can hear it, too. Do you recognize it?

I’m lucky enough to have other teacher scientist friends who quickly replied, including Wendy, who gave this great resource from “Lesley the Bird Nerd” on the various calls of the Black-Capped Chickadee. You’ll probably recognize many of these calls, and you might be surprised that they’re from the same bird. (Here’s a longer video with descriptions of these vocalizations and what they mean. These birds are actually communicating to one another, and there’s a good chance that they’re talking about you, your cat, or maybe your bird feeder.)

We think that the call that Eleanor heard in this video was a male calling to females. I particularly like this call because it sounds like a song, and sometimes I try to whistle it back to the chickadees. I like to think that we’re talking to one another as we repeat this back and forth. I also like it because I can play some of these calls on my piano:

It’s not exactly the same, but it’s awfully close. It makes me wonder where the birds have taken music lessons. I also wonder if there are sounds in nature and music that mimic one another all the time, and maybe we take these for granted.

There are lots more sounds outside than just chickadees or even just birds. I wonder, when we take the time to sit and listen in our homes, backyards, or sidewalks, what things we can start to notice? Can you record those sounds? Do they change during the day? Through the season? And do you start to hear more as you spend more time listening? We would love to know more about what you’re hearing and how you do your listening! Tell us about it!

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