Two thoughts winged (wanged?) their way into my head as i sat this week watching birds for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch. Both were about how birding has affected my life both for better and for worser.
The first was a triumphant memory: Just recently, on my way home from a City Council Work Session, i was listening on my car radio to an episode of the NPR show, “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me.” When i tuned in, they were at the point where the three celebrity panelists were telling tall tales only one of which is true, and the callers have to guess which one it is. Well, one panelist was saying that somewhere down South some people, as in the Hitchcock movie “The Birds,” had actually been attacked by — she said — “starlings and spotted grosbeaks.” I knew in a flash that that couldn’t be the true story, because there’s no such thing as “spotted grosbeaks!” And i was right. So! Tweet that, baby! See how much i’ve learned from studying my field guides?
The second thought i had was not as felicitous: It turns out that one of my all-time favorite songs, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” by Crosby, Stills and Nash, contains a similarly fictitious bird name. In fact, two of them. Remember these lines? “Chestnut-brown canary / Ruby-throated sparrow / Sing a song / Don’t be long / Thrill me to the marrow.”
Well again, there is no such thing as a chestnut-brown canary, and no damn ruby-throated sparrow either. Of course, it’s poetry. i get that. And these lines follow the lines, “I’ve got an answer; / I’m going to fly away.” So, you know … Stephen Stills can make up a color and species, and a name that rhymes with “marrow” if he wants to … It’s a song, right? A damn good song, too.
It’s just funny that for, like, 50 years, i never noticed those made-up birds.