A Song for August 14

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After the 90th Reunion of the Prairie Trek and associated expeditions, I walked out into the shortgrass prairie north of the Caretaker's House, as I have done off and on for 46 years, to hear the meadowlarks. Although most are in the distance, this is more singing meadowlarks than I recall hearing before. They are all Westerns as far as I can tell, although one does hear an Eastern of the Lilian's subspecies here from time to time.

During those 46 years, the road from Thoreau to Bluewater Lake and beyond has been "improved," and this has changed the acoustic character of the tranquil Las Tusas Valley. In the early 70s the road was muddy in wet weather, dusty in dry weather, and always too rocky to drive on. It took 45 minutes to cover the 7 miles from here to old US 66 at Thoreau. Now you can make it in ten minutes, or less if you want to push it. Most people don't push it, but you can still hear them from two miles away, as you can hear the single car punctuating the meadowlark song on an unusually windless day on the Las Tusas prairie.


In writing the commentary for these posts I have made extensive use of the invaluable bioacoustic resources listed below. For phylogenetic information, I often start with a web search of "Phylogeny of x," where x is an avian genus, family, or order. That is a hit-or-miss proposition. A recently-released resource that makes phylogenetic queries more systematic is the Birds of the World website from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. If you follow the link and type the name of an avian family into the search box, you will be able to visit a home page for that family that presents the number of genera and species, and an illustration for each genus. If you subscribe, you will get more information. Also available to subscribers is the Birds of the World species accounts. Rolled out in 2020, this is currently an amalgam of the Birds of North America series, that was initiated by the American Ornithologists' Union around 1990, a recently-initiated online equivalent for Neotropical Birds, and the Handbook of Birds of the World series that was produced by Lynx Edicions, also beginning in the 90s. BNA has been hosted by the Lab of O for some time, and they recently added HBW to their portfolio. Especially useful for my purposes is the Systematics History subsection of the BNA accounts. EBird still has its separate species pages for all the birds of the world. These feature photos, recordings, range maps, and numerical eBird statistics, but little text. Overall, the abundance and availability of resources is astounding. Never has so much been available to so many for so little.

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Email: web at archmcallum.com

Nathan D. Pieplow. 2017. Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Nathan D. Pieplow. 2019. Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Western North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Donald Kroodsma. 2005. The Singing Life of Birds. Houghton Mifflin.