I cannot bird by ear. I am rather hard of hearing and getting worse as time goes on, and I also just can’t commit to a sound–“Sure, that might be “pretty-bird, pretty-bird” but I guess I could also hear it as “teakettle chirrr, teakettle chirrr,” or “tekili-li! tekili-li!” for that matter.

I can do crows. Crows are no problem. Unless they’re fish crows, in which case I don’t bloody well know. But at least I’m in the right sort of genre. Also, the domestic chicken I can ID pretty well.

But I’m trying to get better. I have to do it one call at a time, and really stamp the thing into my brain. I have just about managed to nail down the clipped quack of the white-breasted nuthatch. I gazed out the screen door, heard the call, thought “nuthatch!” and felt proud. So I began listening for another call.

There was the occasional chirp. There was the quack of the nuthatch. There was also a high pitched whistle, near the top of my hearing range, that was calling regularly. I listened with interest. Seemed familiar, couldn’t think what bird it went to. It was very high pitched. Sounded almost like it was behind me, which if the sound was coming through the screen, meant it might be on the roof. Certainly distinctive. And that bird was singin’ up a storm. Chirp, pause, chirp. Almost a pulse, really. Astonishing how…mechanical…that…sounded.

And then I put my head in my hands and sighed, because I had been trying to ID the mating call of my Epson printer.

I think I’ll stick to birding by sight.

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