Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Familiar Song of a Robin – “And Yet We Hardly Know Him”

This morning began with the song of a Robin – a sure sign of spring and a good wake-up call in more ways than one.

Wake up, wake up you sleepy head,
Get up, get up, get out of bed,
Cheer up, cheer up, the sun is red . . .

Not only was it a good message for me – because I’ve been really lazy the past few days – but the verse from the old, well-known song also sounds a lot like the phrases of the Robin’s song itself, usually described as something like cheer-up, cheer-up, cheerily cheer-up cheerio. I lay in bed listening to it this morning for a while, and listened again off and on all day as different Robins sang, each one with a slightly different variation on the general theme. A Robin’s song is one of the most familiar, and yet, as Donald Kroodsma eloquently describes in The Singing Life of Birds, when you really listen to it closely, it’s a song of fascinating complexity and many unexplored strains. “So familiar is this robin, yet we hardly know him,” Kroodsma says. “Robins have much they can teach us.”

“Learn to recognize the robin’s song,” he continues, “and you’ve got the standard for the songs of other birds, too. . . . Sitting in a lawn chair and listening to robins for a few hours prepares one for sparrows and starlings and wrens and flycatchers and warblers and thrushes and jays and goldfinches and blackbirds – indeed, almost anything that other birds may have to offer. Begin by listening to the robin, and realize then how easily one hears how all the others sing.”


Post a Comment

<< Home