Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tinkling bells

I am always amazed at the size of a bird's voice in comparison to its actual body mass. A small house wren has a large voice. When it scolds it sounds like a large jay. When it sings it sounds like a flute. A scolding cactus wren sounds as if a large sea gull were squawking, when it lifts its voice in song, you expect to see a much larger bird.

In the desert this morning I was greeted by the sounds of tinkling bells. The silver sound was all around me, the desert sounding like a small bell choir. I have heard this sound before but have not seen which bird makes it. As I stroll along looking for the source, I spy the silhouette of a small bird on a bare mesquite branch. Raising my binoculars I focus in on a black-throated sparrow. His white breast is toward me, his head raised in song, his black throat fluttering with the liquid notes. The air is filled with the sound of a small silver bell, a soft tinkling sound, yet loud enough to carry across the cactus-covered hillside. A blazing sun warms the earth around us but he just keeps on singing to the morning and to me.

As I continue farther down the trail the sparrow flies away. The once dirt path is now covered in a soft green down of grass, the result of the recent rains. A large barrel cactus is bloated into a spine-covered ball beside the path, the top of which sports a crown of orange buds. One of the buds is alreadying opening. Soon the rest will follow in a fiery display. Some of the cholla cacti are blossoming again also. Their blooms are a soft lavender color offset by the pale green of the plant. Though it is still early morning, the heat is quickly building. We shall reach 100 degrees or more again today. Gone are last week's gray skies and humidity, but the evidence of the rains are all around me. The Monsoon has brought life to the desert once again. Perhaps that is what the black-throated sparrow is singing about with its silvery voice in the desert sun.


Jess said...

I just wanted to say how much I LOVE your writing! I'm so happy you have started a blog - it will be a wonderful way for you to share the glories of God's creation that you have discovered. I have never been to Tucson, but you have a wonderful way of bringing it to life almost as if I were there in person. Keep up the great work!

Kathie Brown said...

Jess, I'm glad you enjoy it. I do love writing about this palce, which is all so new and exciting for me.


RitaAnn said...

I've noticed the contrast between small birds and their voices too. Here in Maine, the Goldfinches, what I like to call "Peepers," are small enough to fit in your fist, but I can hear them indoors and sometimes at night. They make a cute sound like "ba-bweep" with accent on the bweep, and it's really high pitched.

The other small bird is the Chickadee. In the early morning, you can hear the "Chick-a-dee dee."

Another small bird with a loud, unique voice is the Nuthatch, also called the "Upside Down Bird" because of the way they hang on branches. They make a honking type sound that carries through the back yard. Imagine a crow trying to imitate a duck, and that's what it sounds like to me.

Kathie Brown said...

Dear Rita,

I like your desciption of the sound a nuthatch makes. I also think they sound like they are honking. The goldfinches can also sound like they are saying "swwe-ee-ee-t" with the pitch rising at the end. Right now I am getting lesser goldfinches, which make a slightly different sound. We have Mexican chickadees down here, though I have not seen any as of yet. There are also mountain chickadees if you go up into the mountains. I have seen them in Utah, but not here. I miss the chickadees. Thanks for your comment!