[CT Birds] Hermit Thrush song

opposablechums at aol.com opposablechums at aol.com
Mon Jul 19 22:47:19 EDT 2010

 Years ago, as a nascent birder, I fell in love with a crepuscular bird song of summer.  In those days, under the spell of violent avian passions, it was not enough for me to listen to cassette tapes of bird calls and see which one fit best; I had to SEE the bird MAKING the call.  Only then would I'd have felt that I'd "gotten"it.

Some decades down the line, I still feel pretty much the same.

Well, the Hermit Thrush was a toughy; easily heard, surprisingly more difficult to see actually vocalizing.

It took a couple of years, but it eventually happened.  I definitively saw, in the indigo late summer's deepest dusk, a Hermit Thrush giving what I had come to think of as the most rapturous song in an over-crowded field of rapturous singing

End of story?  Not for one as verbose SOB as me....

A scant week later, I happened to find myself in New York's Penn Station, perhaps the West's most accurate depiction of a Calcutta market.  Having bought my ticket (to someplace called "Long" island), I was looking up at a data board such as one might see in an international stock exchange, attempting to divinate the track I was to high-tail it to pronto.

And then, through a crowd noise reminiscent of nothing so much as static, I could've sworn...

But, of course, not...

It was just a few stray notes sporadically cutting through the din and, in the moments where I couldn't hear it, I was pretty good at using my brain to convince my heart that there was, of course, "no way."

But I KEPT on hearing it.  With a few minutes to spare before my train, I set out in search of the source of the song, secretly amazed that I could be so gullible as to think I was actually hearing a Hermit Thrush in Penn Dang Station.  

As I triangulate the sound and got nearer, it only became louder.  My incredulity threatened my heart rate until, finally standing at what seemed to be the epicenter of the song, I saw...nothing.

Yet I heard it still; loud. clear, and unmistakable.

Further searching led to the source of the sound: a small speaker on top of a schedule kiosk playing, seemingly inexplicably, a loop of a Hermit Thrush song.

I stood listening for several minutes, transfixed by the magic of the mystery, until my curiosity got the better of me.  I then approached the nearest vendor, an East Indian purveyor of newspapers, magazines, and Gatorade.  I, somewhat breathlessly, asked her about the meaning of the speaker playing Hermit Thrush calls, how long it had been there, and why.

She had no idea what I was talking about.

Subsequent Googling revealed that it was a state-funded artist's attempt to blend the sounds of nature into the veritable hub of urban modernism. 

Got me.


-Jason Kessler

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