20191002 001046 2-1/2 minutes
Nature, Birdsong, Listening, Soundbites

Living in the woods one hears lots of birds, but doesn’t necessarily see many of them. It occurred to me that I should try to find out which birds are so kindly serenading me
Checking out the library shelves I found two sets of tapes of bird songs. Wonderful, I thought. Now I can listen to them in the car and learn who are the owners of all those beautiful voices and songs.

Right. Likely story.

The first set of tapes teaches 85 different songs. So far I have had them almost two months and have maybe learned 20 – 25 different birds. It’s not that easy. And my short term memory is not helping. The owls I’ve figured out, and some of the woodpeckers and water birds. But the sparrows, warblers, finches and occasional visitors – forget it. Some of them I’ve never even heard of!

The last side of the third tape is a quiz, to see how many of the songs can be identified. Well, I keep losing count but I am making progress, until I go outside and hear a bird in the trees. That is the real test and so far I think I’m maintaining a steady F-. How can it be so hard?

We aren’t taught to listen. We hear our friends speak and jump to conclusions about what they are saying and never bother to hear their tone of voice or inflections. To learn bird songs one must really listen and concentrate on tiny differences between them. It is an excellent exercise in concentration, to discipline one’s mind to differentiate tiny details. Society currently glosses over minutia. One minute sound-bites are as detailed and profound as we are willing to tolerate. Recognizing birds in the wild, or not-so-wild, is one thing. Most of the ones we see are fairly easy to differentiate. But trying to learn their songs, when we can’t see them because they are hiding in the leaves and the canopy, that’s a completely different story. We have lost the art of listening.

Wish me luck.