Friday, March 24, 2017

Canyon Wren Doppler Song

Have you ever heard the call of the Canyon Wren?  It's probably my favorite sound to hear echoing through roofless canyon tunnels.  My least favorite sound would definitely be the rushing thunder of a flash flood.  Hypothetically, at least, as I haven't experienced that yet.  My current confirmed least favorite canyon sound is thunder.  Definitely have heard that before, sometimes while running top speed over erosion pocketed slick rock through a downpour on the way to a culvert trailhead that really seemed like it was closer but time flies and so does distance apparently.  I still have no idea how Quentin's phone survived that one.  The magic of bricks, I guess.

Canyon Wrens have a song that starts with a bland chirp not dissimilar from many other birds flitting about the landscape.  But their song takes a turn midsong, finding its own unique voice, and becoming distinctive from any other bird I know.  I'm not an ornithologist, though, so I may just be woefully underexposed to avian melodies.  If the song ended after two or three notes, it would just be any other songbird.  But it doesn't end at two or three notes.  Instead it starts with a chirp, and then goes into a long repeating tweet that seems to fade off into the distance, even if the bird is standing directly beside you.  Like its song is a toy train speeding by, down along the canyon floor.  My description is not doing that little bird's song any justice, so here's a clip:

Isn't it great?  Have you ever heard a bird call like it?  Maybe doppler isn't the effect I was looking to describe.  Listening to it now on a computer vs. in a canyon, it sounds more like an engine or turbine quickly slowing to a stop.  As if the song was a fan blade after the switch on the wall had been flipped in a room where inertia was disabled.  Or maybe the laws of physics weren't bent, but the axle connecting the rotor to the motor was.  Maybe the motor's about to fail.

In any case, lying on a slab of sandstone listening to those calls bounce off the fins and mushrooms of a staggered Utah canyon is just about one of the nicest ways to spend some time hiding in the shade from the summer sun.  I'd recommend trying it some time.  Canyon Wrens can be tough to find, but if you're really quiet, maybe you'll get lucky and one will find you.  In the meantime, just set that video to repeat for the next hour or so.  Your coworkers will love you for it.

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