Sounds like a Chipmunk Dance Party

Broad-winged Hawk Circling

Broad-winged Hawk Circling

Adventures in Bird Language Tracking
Sunday September 20, 2015

An inspiring moment from this weekend’s bird sit is that almost half of the participants rode their bike to Guelph Lake for a 7:00am meeting time. The bikers (and drivers) were greeted on arrival by a wild turkey on the South side of Conservation Road. There was a cool, light wind and the sun was low in the sky when we started our bird sit on the North shore of Guelph Lake. The water sparkled and we could hear the sound of fish jumping. The dew dripped off of wild grapes leaves and the bugs started to stretch their flying muscles and move around. As the sun rose higher, we were bathed in warm, golden rays and serenaded by cricket songs. This all seems quite utopian; however, there was unrest in the Animal Kingdom that morning. An aerial predator was on the hunt. A zone of quiet in the Northwest was like an “elephant in the room” during the first 30 minutes of the bird sit. In every other direction, we could hear Chickadees, Goldfinches, Canada geese, Blue Jays, Kinglets, American Robins, Song Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers and American Crows. Some sounds were companion calls and some were alarms. The young Goldfinches were saying “Feed me” to their foraging parents in tall, sandpapery cup plants. Flocks of Jays, Canada geese, and Gulls flew overhead from the East to the West. Some were heading noticeably Southwest. The quiet zone to our Northwest remained unchanged. Suddenly an orchestra of “chuck” calls from our little friends Tamias striatus seemed to echo from every direction. It was a surround sound of tribal chipmunk beats, much like a woodland dance party. Had we read pages 301 and 302 of Mark Elbroch’s Behaviour of North American Mammals ahead of time, we may have recognized this sound as an alarm call. According to Elbroch and Rinehart, when chipmunks vocalize “chuck” calls repeatedly, it is an alarm for aerial predators. Within moments, a Cooper’s hawk flew fast from the quiet zone in the Northwest edge of the field to the Pine Forest in the East. John and Spencer had a good look at the accipiter. As we came together at the end, the hawk flew over and everyone had a chance to see it. As we wrapped up the bird sit, we glimpsed two more hawks circling high above. A pair of Broad-winged Hawks climbed a thermal overhead. The chipmunks didn’t seem to mind these migrating raptors; they had returned to foraging and general chipmunk cuteness. In closing, we walnut likely forget the or-kestral sound of the chipmunk’s alarm for aerial predators:)

September Photos 069

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