Garden notes: new moves from musical mourning doves…
Yesterday saw some new moves from the mourning doves –new developments in their response to my music.
First, a couple of new tunes have come aboard –”My funny valentine”, a great old standard by Rodgers & Hart written in 1937, and “Higher Ground” a fine Stevie Wonder number written in 1973 ( I saw a 16 yearold Stevie Wonder in a concert in Hammersmith, London in 1964: he knocked everybody out with his harmonica. Who knew then that he would go on to write a huge body of high quality songs over the next forty years? (”Higher Ground” brings together a number of 70’s themes –Vietnam weariness, inner city strife, and some religious/spiritual aspirations: the blind SW called the album “Inner Visions”. “Higher Ground” has always been a particular favorite of mine. I heard it quite by chance recently, and that was enough to get me into it.
So, two new tunes that I liked, that I played a lot to get inside them.
With the birds, there seems to come a point of familiarity –they seem to “get used to” the sounds, to “recognize” them, the tempo, the various instrument voices that I use. One voice, #349, called “Soft Whirl” has a sort of Les Paul jazz guitar feel to it –it’s smooth, distinctive, soft, and it pops.
I’ve only recently begun to use it with any regularity, and I soon saw that the birds were having a particular reaction to it. The two or three male Cardinals were very curious –animated, interested. I have talked of my theory that of my three regular avian visitors, the Cardinals are the most evolved musically –they are creative and “evolutionary” in their own song, and the males clearly use song to compete for and win mates, and to claim territory. They have very specific and definite incentives to be better musicians!
The Cardinals like #349, the “Soft Whirl” (wherever the name comes from). They like Les Paul, and the ‘pop’. And they like “Higher Ground”.
(by “like” I mean that they have become more animated, and make time for the activity of listening.”)
The Mourning Doves do not display the lively animation (chirpy and curious) of the Cardinals –they have a much more placid nature. There are 18 or 19 of them at fullest count, but the regular crew amounts to about half of that.
They may be more placid than the Cardinals, but they are demonstrably intensely curious and individually so. To my mind, the Cardinals exhibit Cardinal behavior, whereas the individual doves seem to exhibit individual behavior –some doves, for example, seem more curious than others, and less timid.
And they generally have all been getting very much more used to me, comfortable with me. A few now will remain in the feeder even when I pass very close to it.
There are some changing factors that have potential for affecting behavior –Spring is well on the way, the weather is warmer, mating and territory are “on their minds”.
Nonetheless, yesterday, –to the rhythmic Soft Whirl of “Higher Ground”– three separate Mourning Doves, at separate times, became especially interested in the music, in where that hot popping sound was coming from.
First, one walked towards me, closer than any of them had ever come before. It’s a definite if halting approach, with here and there a few steps back.
Then it takes to the air and flies very close to me and the keyboard, and seems to want to land on it. And as it seems to want to land, it suddenly seems to surprise itself to discover that it had actually come so close, and then sought another perch, still very near, but not quite that near.
Over the next few minutes, two other doves would do the same thing. And when they perched, they retained that look of intense curiousity at the progress of the tune which I kept playing.
Amazing! I am amazed –and delighted– at this development.
I can hardly wait to see what transpires today. Or will it be one dove-step forward, two dove-steps back.
We will see.