Awakening to the spirit and beauty of the northern Great Plains
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Grass, Sky, Song Illustrated: "The Sparrow's Fall"
In the last installment of this series of posts illustrating chapters of the book, I forgot to include a shot of the cabin and its porch so I here it is now, better late than never.
This chapter, "The Sparrow's Fall," starts with a misadventure by bicycle out onto the pastures south of our place in the upper Indian Head creek watershed. In the middle of the chapter I include a series of reports from CBC Birdline listeners and then toward the end we are back out on the pasture again. It is August and birdsong is all but gone for the summer.
A single Baird's sparrow sings once or twice into the silence. I love the song of this bird. Typically, it gives three short zips in the opening phrases and then ends with a musical trill that fades and drops in pitch toward the end, leaving the listener felling a bittersweet melancholy.
Image courtesy of Stephen Davis
Stephen Davis, a Canadian Wildlife Service biologist and grassland bird specialist who appears in the book (here is his website), once told me that researchers have identified thirteen different versions of the Baird's sparrow song. (Click here to go to WhatBird.com where you can hear a couple of examples and learn more about the Baird's sparrow.) Like most things in nature, it's a matter of paying close enough attention. Part of the appeal of grassland is its gentle way of calling us to that closer attention.