July 20 2012. On this cool morning I wanted to the seasonal changes along one of my favourite walks; a cool, thick, densely wooded swamp that a month ago echoed with Canada Warbler, Veery and Northern Water Thrush song. All had gone quiet as expected except for distant Winter Wren and White-throated Sparrow songs.
Walking down the rough trail on the way to the wood I listened carefully to Song Sparrows singing at each other. I use the preposition ‘at’ deliberately because although for us their songs are familiar, there’s a lot more going on. Song Sparrows’ songs are among the most studied by scientists and I understand that adjacent Song Sparrows’ (SOSP) territories are delineated by songs, which, while they may sound much the same to us, in fact deliver powerful, distinctly important messages. Like this: SOSP 1 “I’m Jack. This is my place stay away”. SOSP 2 “This is Ron. This my place you stay away too” SOSP 1 “I’m Jack. This is my place stay away – just a reminder”. SOSP 2 “This is Ron. This is my place. Don’t you forget it either.” SOSP 3 “Steve here. This is my place, both you guys better stay away.” SOSP 1 “Jack again. This is my place stay away”. Etc. etc. And perhaps they even include the avian equivalents of: “ My dad is stronger than yours.” or “Oh Yeah? Well my dad is bigger than yours.” I don’t know. But I’ve discovered that listening is more rewarding than just hearing.