I’m starting to suspect that my new bird book was ghost-written by Monty Python. I simply can’t read the author’s description of the Painted Bunting’s various calls without hearing the droll delivery of John Cleese in my mind:
- tida day-da tida day teetayta tita
- witee wi witato
- wee sittee, wippity, pickity, snickity
See what I mean? I’ve got a good imagination, but come on!I’m not going to argue with classics such as chick-a-dee-dee-dee, bob white, and caw, but wippity, pickity, snickity? Maybe there is fine print somewhere explaining that this is how a Painted Bunting sounds . . . after a hit of peyote.
My theory is that when describing bird calls, a certain amount of Jungian projection comes into play. Call it the aural equivalent of a Rorschach inkblot test, if you will. My parents, for example, have a bird book which I’m convinced was written by a lush. This fellow uses such phrases as, drink three beers, dry martini dry, and chug, chug, chug, to describe the calls he hears. He probably uses the term “bird watching” as code for “hitting up the best happy hours.”
All snickityness aside, putting a rhythmic phrase to a melody does make it easier to remember. It’s a trick song writers use when composing melodies that don’t yet have lyrics. The Beatles’, “Yesterday,” was actually called “Scrambled Eggs” until McCarthy came up with words for that classic tune.
I am slowly learning all the classic tunes of my backyard’s frequent fliers lately, since Texas is warm enough for me to set up my office outside. Not only does it quench my tremendous need for nature contact, but watching birds gives my eyes a break from staring at the monitor.
Speaking of staring at the monitor, I’ve got a new writing gig with PlanetEye Traveler Magazine. I’m writing about the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas now. The tone of the magazine is more straight-faced than I can be on this blog, but I am having fun. You can check out my stuff by going here. If you like something, feel free to “like” it on Facebook, or leave a comment. Feel free to “friend” me on FB, too, if you’d like, I’m Tui Cameron.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I’ve never heard a Painted Bunting in real life, so perhaps wippity, pickity, snickity, is apt. Personally, though, I’m still leaning towards the Monty Python theory.