Karen:  Don’t confuse lack of interest with folks not having enough expertise 
on the topic to feel they are qualified to contribute to the discussion (e.g., 
me).  I for, one, was fascinated, and look forward to further developments.

 

Rick Cech

 

P.S.  Also add kudos for the fine tern id discussion, Joe, Shai & others. We’re 
fortunate to have individuals in the community with such depths of insight and 
experience.

 

From: bounce-122638804-3714...@list.cornell.edu 
<bounce-122638804-3714...@list.cornell.edu> On Behalf Of Karen Fung
Sent: Thursday, June 14, 2018 2:46 PM
To: nysbirds-L@cornell.edu
Subject: [nysbirds-l] Henslows Sparrow redux: Shawangunk Grasslands, NWR 
(Ulster County)

 

Hi All,

A few weeks ago, I posted a query to the list, noting that this year's 
Henslow's Sparrow at Shawangunk is singing a different song compared to the 
single song recorded by multiple observers last year, and wondering if that was 
enough of an indication that this year's bird is a different individual.  That 
post did not really elicit much interest, based on the little feedback I 
received.

 

Since then, I wrote to a few people directly, including Nathan Pieplow, whose 
book, "Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America", was 
published last year. Am including my direct query to him. Nathan agrees that 
this year's bird is almost certainly a different individual, and he gave me 
permission to post his reply, which you will see below.

 

For those interested, the screen shot of the spectrograms that I sent to him is 
now online on my website, in this gallery. You can see from the screen shot 
that the first four spectrograms show a "Mi-Re-Do" sequence of notes, and they 
are all from this year's bird. The remaining spectrograms show a "Mi-Do-Re" 
type sequence of notes. Both three syllable "songs", just a different sequence 
of sounds.

 

https://www.birdsiviews.com/Henslows-Sparrow-Shawangunk-Grasslands/

 

If you want to see and play back the entire eBird collection of spectrograms 
and audio files for both Shawangunk birds, the link is here:

 

https://ebird.org/media/catalog?taxonCode=henspa 
<https://ebird.org/media/catalog?taxonCode=henspa&mediaType=a&region=Ulster,%20New%20York,%20United%20States%20(US)&regionCode=US-NY-111&q=Henslow%27s%20Sparrow%20-%20Ammodramus%20henslowii>
 
&mediaType=a&region=Ulster,%20New%20York,%20United%20States%20(US)&regionCode=US-NY-111&q=Henslow%27s%20Sparrow%20-%20Ammodramus%20henslowii

 

Nathan's reply and my query to him follow here.

 

--------------

 

Karen,

 

Thanks for the email! I'm very glad you like my book. We need to get more 
people using it!

 

I'm about as certain as I can be that the 2018 bird is a different individual 
than the 2017 bird. Here's why:

*  Henslow's is a poorly studied species. But in the research for my book, I 
never found a documented case of an individual Henslow's switching songtypes on 
a recording.

*  You've got a pretty good sample size of recordings here. I went through all 
the 2018 recordings and every rendition is identical. I didn't go through all 
the 2017 recordings but in my sample, they were all identical to each other and 
different from the 2018 bird.

*  All the 2017 and 2018 recordings in your sample are stereotyped, not 
plastic. This basically ensures the recordings come from adult birds. It has 
been shown in many passerine species that once birds are adults, they cannot 
learn new songs. A few birds have been shown to break this rule (like Northern 
Mockingbird), but it would be a surprise for Henslow's Sparrow.

*  The 2017 and 2018 songs differ in many details -- one is not merely a 
truncation of the other. 

This is actually a pretty good test case for the number of songtypes per 
individual Henslow's Sparrow. If birders visit the same bird many times over 
the course of a season and never document any song variation, it's very good 
evidence that each individual has a single songtype. Plus, it happens to fit 
with the little we know about song in Henslow's, and a great deal that we know 
about song in passerines in general.

 

So, I'd say you have a new bird this year.

 

 

Nathan

 

On Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 3:59 AM, Karen Fung < 
<mailto:easternblueb...@gmail.com> easternblueb...@gmail.com> wrote:

Dear Nathan,

I very much enjoyed your presentation at the Linnaean Society (NY) last year, 
and bought your book as soon as it came out.  I grew up playing the piano as a 
hobby, so am used to seeing sounds presented in visual form.  Spectrograms are 
a great aid in learning bird song!

 

Anyway, I'm writing to hopefully get your thoughts on whether you think the 
male Henslow's Sparrow that is currently singing at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR 
(NY: Ulster County) is a different bird from last year's since its spectrogram 
is slightly different.  See below for part of an email that I sent to local 
birders.  Was told that Henslow's hasn't nested at Shawungunk in maybe 30 
years, and that last year's sighting was the first one documented in recent 
memory.  That alone made some folks think that the current bird had to be the 
same one as last year's due to its rarity.  Last year it was around for maybe 
ten days, singing incessantly.  This year it also sings non-stop, but the 
sequence of notes is different.  This year it has a mate, so could it be 
singing a different song just based on that fact?  Your book seemed to indicate 
that Henslow's only has one song in its repertoire.. but could it have 
modulated its song between seasons?.  Some birders agree that it is likely to 
be a different bird, based on its different song, plus its plumage appears to 
be paler this year (but I'm not sure how to evaluate plumage if the bird has 
molted).

 

Any thoughts would be appreciated.  The attached screen shot was taken a few 
days ago.  The link to the eBird data for the audio files is below.

 

Best Wishes,

Karen Fung

Manhattan

 

 

 

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