Tuesday 5 May 2009

A Reply to Patrick's Question

Patrick (you know, the ONLY Patrick) has a new post up here which I find really neat. Here's what he has to say:

"Ok, time for a poll. What's your favorite warbler song? Let's stick with North American wood warblers. "

What a great idea!

It is May after all, and as birders get ready to storm the Parks, Points and Presqu'Iles in search of warblers, he has lured them into listening to their bird song CDs and refine their acoustic birding skills.

Clever, in a very educational way.

I read some of the comments with great interest and lo and behold (or rather shock and awe):
it got me thinking.

And you see, there is a problem.

The problem with Patrick's question is that most of the answers in the comments section are by North American birders. Therefore, and very naturally so, these answers are biased as the commenters are all born and raised amongst the warblers or other birds of North America and connect certain great/memorable birding moments with a certain warbler song.
So it is not really the song they find is their greatest/favourite one but that particular connection or memory.

Problem recognized is problem solved.

If your locals are all under the influence, ask the sober stranger.

It is thus with great pleasure that I present (trumpets, please) here on Belltowerbirding and (as of currently) nowhere else the un-biased truth, the fact beyond the fiction of other people's mindset, the truly and objectively so greatest warbler song in all of North America.

Here is what the newbie - the European birder who has only spend a ridiculous two springs in North America - has to say about it:

North American warblers look absolutely amazing but their songs are - frankly - mostly crap. Come on, it is no use denying, I have made personal painful experiences with the subject:

I spent hours and hours listening to the Stokes' CDs while driving from migration hot spot to migration hot spot trying to memorize those songs but essentially and to the untrained / unbiased ear they all sound exactly the same!

"Blackburnian Warbler: chip chip cheeeep
Chestnut-sided Warbler: cheeep chip chip cheeeep
Black-throated Green Warbler: chip cheeeep chip cheeeep"

As I was driving in a rental, I gave the CD player a few decent blows as I thought the CD was stuck on "repeat".

Turns out it wasn't.

I then returned the CD to the store and demanded a refund as the cover had promised something like 50 different bird songs which obviously wasn't the case, just the same song 50 times.

They appeared to be amused, but I got neither my money back, nor my 50 different bird songs. You see, I just didn't realize that exactly this would be what I'd get at Point Pelee and elsewhere:

Chips and cheeps.

Good side: hardly any heard-only lifers.
Bad side: a handful of missed lifers.


And if one warbler - like the Ovenbird - sound unlike the other warblers, it sounds like a completely different North American bird species, so it's no better than the rest.
Yes, you may find it ridiculous but for a first-time-spring-birder in North America, it is hard to tell an Ovenbird from a Cardinal or a Carolina Wren.

Teacher-teacher-tea-kettle-tea-kettle-teacher-tea-kettle my behind!
Come on, these birds just can't ever be serious, right?
The jester-pesters.
In a very friendly way, I kid because I still love birds, of course, and warblers in particular.

Well, you are right, rant off for now.

So what is - viewed neutrally - the best warbler song in North America?

Well, obviously it is the Blue-winged Warbler.


Well, because its song is a deep, sad and desperate sigh of disappointment, a sigh resulting from the desperation that it (and its whole group) have such great looks but just cannot sing very well and that this will get you very far in the humans' music industry but it just ain't no good when you're a bird.


Patrick B. said...

Love it Jochen! (Still working on the turtle bones)

Larry said...

That's hilarious! I have no idea what they sound like in your area but I guess I should find out.-How about posting a few samples on your blog.

Dale Forbes said...

now that is a blog post!

Bobby said...

I am looking for ivory-billed woodpecker enthusiasts. Are u one?

For Ivory-billed Woodpecker Foundation updates, please e-mail me @ ivorybillwp@aol.com

Laurent said...

You are too modest, Jochen. I know you are pretty good at that.

I think the black throated green warbler song is very cute, plus this is an easy one. zee zee zooo zeee!!!!!

But just for the sake of encouraging people to come visit Michigan (see, we really need your tourist dollars here), I would say "Kirtland warbler". This is a warbler anybody HAS to have on its list!!!

Charlie said...

ha ha great post...

Allen Chartier said...


Well, perhaps in North America our birds do subtle vocalizations, but having visited Europe twice I can say that many songs, though richer and more complex, sound similar to me! And, what's up with all those warblers you supposedly have. Looks to me like a flock of Tennessee Warblers invaded the whole continent, and if one had a bent tail feather it was described as a whole new species by some split-crazed Euro-Ornithologist :-) Nice post, my friend.

Jochen said...

@Patrick: you were the inspiration, so you'll get full credit (or responsibility) for this post!

@Larry: Thank you! I can't do any recordings yet myself but will keep your comment in mind for the future! That's a neat suggestion!

Dale: cheers, mate, and thanks a million for your follow-up post. Looking forward to your birding stories from Kaz and the Po.

@Norma: I'd love to be enthusiastic but the last few years were like a continuous cold shower (as we say in German). Yet, I am still mildly curious about the ongoing searches.

@Laurent: do French mothers tell their children not to lie?
zeee zeee zoooo zeee see see you see? Was it zeee zooo zeee zeee or zee zee zoo zoo or ...
Yes, all together now: VISIT MICHIGAN !!!!!

@Charlie: wow, from you that's very nice to hear, blog dad!

@Allen: excellent comment, my friend. Excellent!!!! If I find the time, I'll take up that thread for a post on our ... well, those blinking green and brown skulkers we curse "warblers" at.

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