I heard him scrambling in the bushes one morning so I opened my window. I wouldn’t call his vocal skills impressive as he glissando from a low warbling note up an octave, like a child learning to play the violin, but not a squawk. He sang those two notes with determination and persistence so what girl wouldn’t fling open the window to discover the identity of the troubadour serenading her.
Okay, so you probably figured out by now, that Pierre is no Frenchman, though versed in the skills of a medieval troubadour minus the lute. And it took a long while to identify Pierre among his species. Certainly he was too small to qualify for an American robin and he lacked the musical skills and his black, orange and white markings confused me for months.
So I told the bus driver about Pierre and he said that the bird’s habits and coloring reminded him of a bird in his yard, a rufous sided towhee. My sister had guessed the identity of the bird last fall when I described it to her–“You sure it’s not a towhee?” See without my glasses on, I couldn’t tell if the bird was a varied thrush or a oriole, which would have real birders in stitches by this point. Oh, yes, and I forgot to mention author (“Why Birds Sing”), David Rothenberg’s imitation of a towhee on a recording of a radio interview we did, should have clued me in.
So I told one of the librarians about the bird and she also mentioned a towhee that visited her yard, with similar habit, without the serenading underneath her window. Then my dad said that he also has spotted towhee coming into my parents’ yard. So with so many sightings of this bird, why have I just discovered it now?
I’m not just a bored, barely employed writer falling in love with a bird, I named Pierre. I’m excited about discovering a new species of the bird kingdom. And this bird has some interesting habits like singing his two-note song while hanging out in a willow tree or a honeysuckle bush (both good choices of vegetation), kicking up rocks while he searches for seeds underneath the bird feeder and hanging out with flocks of finches, chickadees and house sparrows without any views on diversity or ethnic identity. Hey, Pierre seems to get on with everyone. Though he doesn’t seem to have a mate, which leaves me feeling kind of sad for the bird.
I’m hoping this spring with his bright feathers and his voice that leaps up an octave he’ll attract a mate. (Think the two first words in “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”–some where leap an octave. I tried singing that octave and could see the vocal challenged faced by Pierre). If he doesn’t find another rufous sided towhee to share his bird life with then he can serenade me all he likes. I’ve never been serenaded by a songbird until I met Pierre. And I’m not complaining.