I Am Not a Birder, But…

September 5th, 2013 by Frank Randall · No Comments · Uncategorized

I am not a birder, but most days I spend a fleeting moment paying them special attention. Why not? There they are, pleasant to see, hear and be near. My appreciation for this particular realm within the animal kingdom took a major leap forward when I heard the finished master for NPR Sound Treks: Birds. It’s an often overlooked gem among the many NPR audio collections released by HighBridge. Far from encyclopedic, it’s a magical hour-long audio experience in which listeners are introduced to an abundance of well-curated birdsong, hear first-person bird encounters from storytellers Bill Harley (a hard earned lesson in birding etiquette) and Julie Zickefoose (heroically reuniting mother and child wrens, rehabilitating orphaned hummingbirds), and learn some truly wonderful science behind otherwise mystifying bird behaviors. Did you know that cuckoo chicks are imposters from birth, plotting against their foster siblings in an underhanded scheme to rule the nest? Did you know that the elaborate duets of the Peruvian antbird reveal a mating melodrama worthy of daytime TV?  Have you met the remarkable Manx shearwater, which only calls on misty, moonless nights – and then screeches with all the electricity of a wailing rock band? Listen and learn. And if you also dabble in a little people-watching, the bird-obsessed characters telling these stories are as colorful as their subjects.

This has long been a title I like to mention when asked about great audio from NPR. Host Jon Hamilton has the perfect blend of science know-how and music in his voice. Producer Kerry Thompson expertly weaves an eclectic mix of stories together, creating a dynamic audio aviary. But (again with the but!), for reasons I can’t fathom, it tends to fly under the radar.

Again, I’m no birder, but if it weren’t for NPR Sound Treks: Birds, I might not have noticed the pileated woodpecker that was hammering away at my neighbor’s tree this summer. What a sight! Or the bald eagle that cruises up and down our stretch of the Mississippi River here in Minneapolis. Awesome. Or even those unspectacular (but still rockin’) robins cleaning up after I mow the lawn. I highly recommend for birders as well as their less distinctive cousins, the common featherless audio lover.

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