Gray Catbird singing from a multiflora rose bush next to the outlet of Ladyslipper Pond. 6:30am, 11 May 2016. Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area near Ithaca, New York. © Lang Elliott. This is a 3D binaural recording; please wear headphones and don’t play too loudly!
I delight in gathering sound portraits of common species, with emphasis on depicting each bird dimensionally “in its habitat,” embedded within a pleasant mix of other nature sounds. In years past, I toted a parabolic reflector and captured close-and-clean renditions virtually devoid of a sense of place. Those recordings certainly have their use (for ID guides), but they rate low in terms of aesthetics and provide little if any sense of place. How unnatural and ultimately boring!
Thus, you can imagine my delight when I encountered a Gray Catbird singing in a multiflora rose shrub next to the overflow of my beloved Ladyslipper Pond. How agreeable was the sound … the catbird’s leisurely song phrases set against the gurgling of water flowing down a small gully, with the subtle notes of other birds in the background. With great pleasure I recorded the male’s performance. I have a number of spacious catbird portraits in my collection, but I think this one is my best yet.
I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks, especially as it relates to the relative loudness of the catbird’s song versus the water sounds. Did I hit it on the nose, or is one or the other too loud? Remember, though, that this recording is meant specifically to be a sound-portrait of the catbird, not a mix of water gurgles with subtle bird songs.
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such a wonderful repertoire of this one! happily they nest here and feed their kittenbirds off the insects I promote. have you heard the whisper routine? jazz improv.
Catbird piping, end of day, all my cares just float away
“What were those, really, anyway?” catbird wisdom sings to say.
Mind at peace, heart so light, in catbird dreams I sleep tonight.
Thank you, friend who sets me right.
nice poem Sharon!
Very nice! Funny I should have come across and be listening to this particular recording of yours this evening as just this afternoon I had the privilege of listening to a Catbird give me a mini concert near a pond. It was most enjoyable. I didn’t realize Catbirds had such large repertoires! I kept hoping he would also perform his cat “meow” for me, but he didn’t.
They often, even usually, throw some mew calls in when they sing. I was hoping this catbird would do that, but he didn’t call until a bit later, after he stopped singing.
Interesting. I guess the two we listened too just decided to be unusual!
My cats (Gideon & Evil) and I loved listening to the Catbirds and Bobolinks.
Cats are the acid test for sure.
This is somewhat unrelated to the catbird, but there is a guy who is creating a library of scents. Maybe you and he should get together. Here is an article about him.
Thanks for the lead … I’ll be sure to check him out!
you hit it on the beak! gave a presentation on bird sounds to a group of blind/visiion-impaired kids last week. They were totally entranced. Use one of your CD’s, played some of the commonest birds they’d hear.
That’s great. Once I gave a talk about frogs to a roomful of blind kids. I had them imitate frog sounds and then, at the end, we performed a mixed species chorus. Teachers throughout the school flocked to the room to see what the ruckus was all about. The kids were ecstatic. One even decided to add a crowing rooster to the mix.
This evening after church choir practice, I was captivated by a super-energetic singing bird, hidden in an ancient cedar on the edge of the cemetery. I recorded it with my phone for later ID. Soon after determining that my lovely singer was a Catbird, I opened your email. These birds are amazing! They sound like a mockingbird played “fast-forward” speed. Lovely balance, thank you. Also enjoyed the ovenbird, flycatcher and mallards…
Great story Lori. I can imagine that ancient cedar at the edge of the cemetery, with you standing there enthralled. That is the point of it all, I do believe.
Since the weather today was so delightful, I spent most of the day outdoors, even eating my lunch in my pretty courtyard. This was the first time that I had a chance to open my e-mail & I’ happy that I did 🙂
Now I can fall asleep w/ the lovely sounds of the birds that I love playing in my head. Thank you Lang.
You’re welcome Rose.
I was delighted to find the recording loops so I get to listen as long as I want without sitting by the computer and restarting it. Took me back to sumers in Maine where civilization was far away.
I decided to instigate looping for that very reason … so folks an enjoy the recording for as long as they want without having to keep hitting the play button. No doubt this is decreasing my soundscape sales in my store, but what the heck.
You hit it out of the park. I had no idea the catbird did beyond its catcall. Will have to pay more attention.
I love to hit home runs!
Beautiful, Lang…wouldn’t change a thing!
The WOOD THRUSH IS BACK! Just now. I was reading the comments on this page when I heard him singing outside, 8:05 pm, May 12, 2016! I thought it was your recording, at first, but knew you didn’t have a WOOD THRUSH on this Catbird Song, since I had listened to it earlier. YAY! Grand delirium! We definitely have Catbirds here but I didn’t know what they were until this recording. Thanks!
Gena: so good to hear that your woodies are back. Here in upstate New York, they seem everywhere this year. One is even setting up his territory in the scraggly woods next to our home, which is a first.
I love the Catbird. To me it means fall has come to central Florida! I do a lot of hiking in Florida scrub and piney woods. I can always count on catbirds. they love gallberries which are very common here and they do a lot of meowing thus living up to their name. When it is time for them to head northward they start singing. Thank you Lang this is such a nice recording. You have without a doubt the worlds greatest job(somebody has to do it!). Thanks again. Jaybird
Jay: I am pleased to learn that catbirds sing in Florida at the beginning of migration.
i love it. Is just perfect–the catbird definitely is the star and the centerpiece, but the other sounds are a wonderful complement. without them, i don’t think the catbird would be as just right. i can’t say often enough how perfect your recordings are. they make one feel right there. the only nature recordings i can say that of. others are way too overprocessed somehow.
Two of my absolute favorite singers in one day! (The Bobolinks were the other one.) I like to think of Catbirds as constructing complex arias derived from all the bird songs they’ve ever heard plus their own special catbird-isms. I also love listening to them in the evening – preferably a warm, humid one – when other birds are mostly quiet and the Catbird’s song erupts magically and invisibly from within a large, tangled shrub. I do like listening to recordings that include birds in their context , and you have a very nice context at Ladyslipper Pond!
In my early days of recording, before I began collecting stereo soundscapes, I came across a catbird singing in the middle of the night, with a bullfrog chorus in the background. It was pure magic and I recently wrote a poem encapsulating the experience: Catbird Nightsong Stillness reigns as sunlight dims … The catbird’s liquid strain. A farewell song that greets the night As twilight’s glow begins to wane … Wistful dreams of sweet refrain. The night unfolds, the bullfrogs boom Their bellows saturate the air … Then midnight strikes, and none too soon The catbird clears his wakened throat… Read more »
wonderful – thanks so ver much I live in Vancouver, B.C., Canada – opposite side of the continent, but my maternal grandfather lived in Hadley, NY.
Love it and my own resident Catbird showed up yesterday in the same bush. The soft hush of the water in the background is perfect.
FWIW, I did not get this in email as usual, just visited the blog and saw the new entry, so perhaps mailchimp has not yet delivered after all.
Yes, turns out that Mailchimp goofed. They withheld mailing due to a credit card mixup. So I just resent it to everyone.
I am a catbird aficionado, through and through, and I love this, his brilliantly enthusiastic, tireless, musical monologue–I am so grateful that catbirds thrive here in my garden as well. I enjoy the solo over background in this piece. To my ears the recording achieves what you described in your post, the operative ‘balance’ is just right. Yes, just right. Including the punctuation marks of frog splosh and silly duck … catbird, a true artist, carries on without pause. Love it, all of it!
Sharon: glad to hear you think I achieved the right balance … I’m workin’ hard at doing that correctly.
Fine catbird, Lang. I think people aren’t commenting because they’re doing what we were doing this morning – out listening to birds! I think (though can’t be sure when I’m not seeing his beak move) I hear him mimicking cardinals, red-eyed and maybe blue-headed vireos, titmice, phoebes and robins. Mostly I hear pure catbird. I think your sound mix is fine. Great for learning to hear it in situ since none of us have parabolic ears! Thanks!
yes indeed, people might be out birding … therefore too busy to comment. At least I hope that’s the problem (unless Mailchimp didn’t send out the newsletter properly).
You are so good with bird sounds Ruth. I’m envious!
I could listen to the catbird sing all day. We have a pair in a hedgerow that return without fail on May 6 every year! I think this is just right, otherwise the water sound might detract from the catbird’s voice.
Hmmm … except for you Gena, nobody is commenting. I wonder if something went awry with Mailchimp when they were sending my newsletter.