Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Waxwing, Nabesna Road, Alaska. These chicks were approximately 10-12 days old when this photo was taken, and weren’t shy about making some noise! © Andrew Spencer.

I can still remember the first time I saw a waxwing. I had only been birding for a year or two, and I had already picked out Cedar Waxwing as one of my most wanted birds. I was six at the time, and I did most of my birding with my grandmother, either on Long Island (where I lived at the time) or in western Massachusetts (where she had her house). We had searched for waxwings several times, to no avail, so I was overjoyed when I first laid eyes on them.

It took far longer for me to come to grips with their larger cousins, Bohemian Waxwing. By then I knew enough to pay attention to how birds sounded, and I can still remember the high-pitched, tinkling trill they let out, so different from Cedars. And then that was all I ever heard from them, every time I saw one. It’s a gorgeous sound from a gorgeous bird, but would it hurt for them to throw a little variation in? It [Read more]

What’s That Screeching?

Around this time of year, I tend to get a lot of questions from people who want to know what kind of bird might make frequent loud harsh screeches at dawn, at dusk, or in the middle of the night. [Read more]

What We Don’t Know About Bird Sounds

A while back I mentioned my long-standing desire to post a list of things we don’t know about North American bird sounds, with an emphasis on the simple questions that amateur sound recordists could answer. I’ve finally decided to take a crack at it. [Read more]

Murder Most Foul

A true crime story from the bird world. [Read more]

The Fall Challenge

I’ve noticed that an awful lot of nature sound recordists in North America have traditionally focused on recording in the spring and early summer. Between August and December, it seems like almost nobody goes out with a microphone. We’re heading into that traditional “dead period” now, and I just want to point out that no matter where you live, there are some terrific opportunities for recording (and listening to) some of the most interesting and worthwhile sounds of the entire year. [Read more]

A Brown-headed Stepchild

Brown-headed Cowbirds are brood parasites, which means they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and leave the job of child-rearing to unwitting foster parents. Hearing two begging cowbirds in two days got me thinking. What if the begging of the cowbird sounds nothing like the begging of its foster parents’ biological chicks? Is it less likely to be fed? [Read more]

Beware the Bendire’s

In the middle of the afternoon a few weeks ago I was sitting in the public library in Sierra Vista, Arizona–a wonderful facility, by the way–escaping the heat of the day to download my bird sound recordings, recharge my batteries, and check my email, when my attention was drawn to a bird hopping directly toward me on the ground. [Read more]