O frabjous day, the Brown Thrashers have arrived, nearly ten days earlier than last year! What a joyful surprise on this calm and sunny morning here in upstate New York … a truly welcome sign that spring is blossoming according to plan, and that Old Man Winter has lost his grip and will soon fade away.
At dawn, I arrived at nearby Finger Lakes National Forest. I checked out several locations and heard a number of the usual birds of early spring: song sparrows, cardinals, red-wingeds, grackles, flickers, sapsuckers, and a killdeer or two. My expectations of finding something new were low, but when I got out of my car at Willow Pond (a favorite spot), I immediately heard a familiar and treasured voice … that of a Brown Thrasher, energetically singing its doublet phrases from high in a maple tree.
With considerable pleasure and excitement, I gathered two recordings. One features me briefly chatting about the experience, with the thrasher singing in the background and water gurgling in the ditch next to the road. The other is a closer and cleaner portrait of the singer, with less water sounds. You will hear both recordings above, presented in sequence.
After finishing my recordings, I explored the area and soon found two more singing males … proof that a wave of males have arrived and are busy setting up their territories. How delighted I am. My next project will be to capture them singing in super high-definition video. I sure hope I can find a friendly singer who will allow me to get close enough for good results!
You may ask: “How does one recognize the song of the Brown Thrasher?” Well, the giveaway is that he “tends” to repeat each of his highly variable song phrases twice in a row before moving on to the next. In contrast, his cousin, the similar-sounding Northern Mockingbird, generally repeats phrases three or more times before moving on.
The thrasher’s notes are loud and musical, and you can hear a male singing from hundreds of feet away. Of considerable interest to biologists is that each male has a repertoire of over a thousand different song phrases, an enormous pool of sound to draw from as he sings.
Let us celebrate the Brown Thrasher, the bird that chants in doublets and who always has something new to say!
NOTE: As I listen to this thrasher, I notice that many of his phrases are not repeated twice. But many others are. Be aware that the “doublet” repetition is not a 100% thing. Nonetheless, and in spite of this singer drifting from the doublet pattern, his song is still easily recognized as that of a Brown Thrasher … why it’s just clear as a bell, and there’s no two ways about it, I would even venture to say!
p.s. the tapping sounds are from a Downy Woodpecker, looking for food on nearby limbs.