Is there a Canadian Nightingale? Read on, and find out.
After a morning gardening and doing “important” stuff at the computer I needed to go and look for birds. Temperature in the high teens, bright blue sky, hot sun and mid-afternoon … not, you will agree exactly the ideal weather for a birding expedition. Nevertheless, as some said once, “if you don’t go looking for birds you aren’t going to see any”. Staying within my self-imposed 8km wildlife circle I went along Chemin Anse-à-l’Orme (a couple of Goldfinches was about it) to the small, riverside portion of the park which was still flooded and closed to cars where I needed to make my way past the gates and try to keep my feet dry. Red-winged Blackbirds, a couple of Chickadees, nothing exciting at all until I got to the stone wall at the back of the park, which hides a convent/nunnery and beyond which a couple of Eastern Phoebe (#60) were shouting “phee-bee” at each other. That was nice, and a bit unexpected but at least my circle list for the year had made a round 60 species.
I didn’t expect much more but thought, as I was close, to take a stroll down the dirt road into what I call the Kestrel Fields opposite and south of Cap-St-Jacques to see what was about. Not many people go there unless there is a rarity spotted and so it is relatively undisturbed and surprisingly “birdy”. Down this lane is a small airfield for model planes (which seem to have almost no effect on the birds) and there is often someone doing something mechanical and noisy down there; indeed, a couple of cars with a half dozen horny handed sons of toil (shouldn’t they have been at work?) getting their hands oily were present. Walking down I had not seen much more than some RWBLs, Song Sparrows and Am Robins so rather than disturb them I turned round and headed back only to suddenly be hit by a glorious, long rolling bird song that went on and on and on. I knew what it was, in fact had been reading in a birding magazine only a few days before about this species and its song, but my immediate thought, undoubtedly conditioned by having been in eastern England only a month ago (followed by my brain saying “don’t be stupid”) was that I was hearing a Nightingale. I couldn’t see the bird, there are plenty of thick shrubs below the trees and it was tucked away but as I scanned with binoculars I was aware that one of the SUVs from the faux-airfield was stopped just behind me.
“What’s that wonderful song?” the horny-handed guy at the wheel asked and with perfect timing the bird popped up into a tall tree for us both to enjoy. A Brown Thrasher, of course (#61) and my new chum was entranced. “Gorgeous, and all that from such a dull bird” … and off he went smiling. Another convert?
Which brings me back to the Nightingale because that, too, is a drab coloured bird with a wonderful song. When you listen to them you will see how alike in many ways the songs are although the two species are nowhere near related and live on different continents. You can compare them by visiting these two web pages:
Brown Thrasher – got to http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/brown_thrasher/sounds
Nightingale – go to http://www.soundboard.com/sb/Nightingale_Bird_Sounds
So don’t be put off from going birding on hot, sunny days. If you aren’t looking you aren’t seeing.