21 July 2017

What's in a Cheeseburger?: Alphabetical Consonants to Describe Bird Song


What if we arbitrarily assigned consonants to tell us about the relative pitches in a bird's song?
 I am going to try this.


So, for example, take the chickadee song often described as "cheese bur ger". This word doesn't automatically tell me which syllables are of higher or lower pitch than the others. But what about the last two sylables - "bur" and "ger"? Are they both on the same pitch? Not always. Sometimes the "ger" is the same pitch as the "bur", and sometimes it is slightly 'flat' - as in 'lower'.

Human Nature

Often-times, people just clue in to one song/sound they recognize, a 'key song' if you will, and ignore the rest. But, if one pays more attention to all one hears, one quickly realizes there is a lot of variation even in the cheeseburger call. Yes, it is overwhelming. Auditory memory and organization is generally not as well-developed as visual.

It is human nature that the vowel sound "ee" is going to be higher pitched than other vowel sounds. Indeed, in this case the "cheese" syllable is higher pitched than the other two. And it is human nature to focus more on the vowel sounds - I think it is hard-wired into our brains.

Assigning Consonants
If we arbitrarily assigned consonants based on pitch: higher-pitched syllables would start with a consonant occuring further along in the alphabet -- just like the letter-notation of music where pitch "G" is higher than pitch "D".

- Tee is higher than fee
- Yer is higher than bur
- hoo is higher than boo

The two-toned chickadee song - where the first syllable is the highest pitch and second and third syllables are on the same pitch, could be described as:


The three-toned chickadee song where each pitch is lower than the previous, could be described as:

Fee-dee-bee (feed debbie), or Fee-de-bur (Feed de bird)

This convention doesn't give any indication of duration of the syllables / notes in the song, but only of relative pitch. But the two main purposes of using human words to describe bird songs are to help one remember them and to communicate what one heard to another human.

"Cheeseburger" just confuses me because it doesn't tell me whether it is the two-pitched, or the three-pitched song. "Yer-tu-tu" and "feed-de-bird" make way more sense to me.

(Someone else has probably already thought of this, hehe. No matter. I'll keep trying it out for myself. )

04 July 2017

Curlew Update 4 July 2017

Mojo the Long-billed Curlew 

set out from Skookumchuck Prairie IBA at 9:30 pm on the first of July, 2017 following two females, Mildred and Pine, who left the area on the 21st of June.  All three birds flew straight toward Enterprise in northeast Oregon.  Mildred and Pine stopped at Enterprise for a bit before continuing on to California, but Mojo went past, turned southwest along the Malheur River, a tributary of the Snake River, and managed to find some agricultural fields out in the middle of nowhere, for goodness sake.  His last co-ordinates placed him south of Juntara, Oregon.

Mojo flew past the fields where Mildred and Pine took a breather

Mojo found some fields, Granite Creek Road, Juntara, Oregon


What fate has befallen Equina?  Her transmitter has not been transmitting since 29 June and today I found a very small pile of curlew feathers beside the highway near her last known co-ordinates between Moan and Ford Roads.

29 June 2017

Solar Land Grants Map April 2017

A couple of the requests for Crown land 'for the purpose of investigating the feasibility of solar power generation' - aka cover over, fence in, remove from wild nature - were REJECTED, and one was WITHDRAWN. So here is the updated map of these lands in the East Kootenay.

The renewable energy companies still have the use of land equal to about half of what will be flooded by the Site C dam from Skookumchuck to Elko.

I draw your attention to the north end of the map, in particular.  Here is Skookumchuck Prairie Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, important to ungulates, American Badger, Lewis' Woodpecker and Long-billed Curlew.  Almost ALL of the area which underwent restoration work earlier this decade is now available for 'investigating' putting up solar arrays.  See earlier posts.

Lewis' Woodpecker nesting in solar granted lands

Quick Post

UPDATE: went out the other evening and got two more confirmed LEWO nests. We have been driving right by them! Sneaky birds.

= 23 Lewis' Woodpecker nests with young or probable; in an area approx 3 km sq; found in approx 16 hours of surveying.  Extrapolate that to suitable habitat JUST on the Prairie (not the whole IBA) and I figure there could be 90 pairs nesting.

Enhancement and restoration work done a few years ago on the Skookumchuck Prairie Important Bird and Biodiversity Area has been very beneficial to Lewis' Woodpecker.

Unfortunately, this apparently barren and open land in an area purported to be the sunniest region in Canada has also caught the attention of renewable energy companies wishing to build solar arrays.  I hope the grass-roots movement toward small-scale solar power generation takes hold and leaves the grasslands' grass roots to pull carbon deep into the soil. Let the critters keep their home.

I have been able to survey the IBA for Lewis' Woodpecker where there are passable roads.

Here is a map showing:
     the solar land grant in pink
     found (10 confirmed) or probable LEWO nests
     one American Kestrel nest
     telemetry of Long-billed Curlews (see previous post)

Oopsy, I didn't know for sure if you were in there, little buddy!