Birding Buffalo Calf, Part III

Does it ever come time to clean the house when you would rather be doing something else?

That’s why we have character-builders instead of chores. Daily tasks are opportunities—opportunities to develop thoroughness, joyfulness, dependability, endurance, creativity, hospitality and initiative.

April 1 Monday morning character-builders pave the way for a more efficient, hassle-free week. But this Monday! The sun was out after days of rain and the avian spring migration was in full swing. If there was ever a day in the year I wanted to  April 7 be in the woods for the early morning hour it was today. If there was ever a chance to rack up a count for Buffalo Calf it would be this Monday! But windows must be washed. I got the ladder from the barn and the rags from April 13 the garage. I set up to take care of the highest, hardest-to-reach outdoor window first. And then it dawned on me most gloriously that in addition to the afore-mentioned qualities, this was going to be an opportunity to grow in alertness: birding by ear.

April 19 Many birders find that identifying birds by ear can be done just as accurately and much more quickly than hoping for a view of a bird close enough to see its field marks. On spring mornings it can be a fun challenge to sift through April 25the  cacophony of what is called the “dawn chorus” and make identifications by ear. And during the window-washing project was the perfect time to brush up on this skill! In birding and in life alertness and patience are key.

And finally, April 28 Spring  has sprungWithout the arrival of the warblers yet, the calls requiring the most deciphering ability were the vireos and here are a couple hints if your interested. Lord-willing I can list the other species next week . . .

Vireo calls are high and sweet, abruptly-spaced and carried on over a long period of time, giving the observer plenty of time for evaluation.

  • The common, typical, most-easily-observable species is the Red-eyed Vireo. After learning its call you have a litmus test for most of the other species.
  • The Blue-headed Vireo (formerly Solitary Vireo) has phrases that are more deliberate, higher, sweeter. (Peterson)
  • The Yellow-throated Vireo, a special bird on Buffalo Calf, has lower burry undertones with its calls.

Is there a “chore” you do outdoors today? Test your listening skills and count how many birds you can name. You well might surprise yourself!


  1. James April 27, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    Now that’s one thing I wish I knew how to do better, birding by ear. Love the pictures of “The Valley of the Staddons”!

  2. Michael April 28, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    The woods are now green here. In just the past two days we have seen a rapid transformation. Now that the leaves are out it will be much more difficult to spot the birds in the woods. Very handy to know them by their calls!

  3. Matthew April 28, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Great reminder to make chores “character-builders!” Learning to identify birds by their call can be fun.

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