Second of two parts
After months of hoping to find this outlaw of a bird, finally, we were close. Very close.
Coming from a dense stand of old-growth trees in the Pisgah National Forest in Western North Carolina, I could hear this miniature Robin Hood galloping along on his horse. Then he’d toss his hat in the air with a triumphant – but very quick — “Woo-hoo.”
That’s how I visualize the Hooded Warbler singing – three gallops followed by a two-beat, joyous crescendo. It’s is my trick to remember the difference between this warbler’s song and any of his 36 tiny wood-warblering cousins.
If you clump them all together, the 37 warblers that are likely to sing, chip and chirp in the eastern half of the country can make more than a hundred sounds. But the cool thing is, every one of those sounds is unique to just one bird.
When they’re camouflaged by dense foliage, which songbirds often are, the only way to tell if a particular bird is close is to hear it. Suddenly your odds for finding – and photographing — the bird increase exponentially. (For a recording of the Hooded Warbler, click here.)
Like learning a language
At the heart of it, birdsong is a foreign language. Every bird speaks its own, minus the mockingbird and a few other mimics. More than 100 species can be nearby at any given time, depending on the season and habitat. The resulting cacophony at dawn in springtime is beautiful, astonishing and overwhelming.