Popslider Vacation

My Kaiser HMO newsletter says: Your summer shape-up starts now. Feel your best this summer by getting a jump on your fitness plan today.

I got off to a good start this fine Sunday morning. At 830AM, the thermometer in Phoenix sits at 80 in the shade, and creeps up to 90 as the morning progresses. I sat out in the shade of the back porch, sipping my morning coffee, and puffing on a favorite pipe. Did I forget anything? I don’t think so. My fitness plan is in great shape.

In a post called “Mr. Popslider” of June 18, 2005, we noted that our elusive European Starling, as yet unidentified, seemed to have disappeared from the neighborhood. This morning, I note that the starlings seem about as populous as ever, but they’ve changed their tunes.

The bird books describe the starling as “loquatious” – they do have a large repertoire of songs. I’ve learned to recognize almost a dozen distinct sounds from these feathery critters, including clicking, clucking, chirping and whirring sounds. Last year, this chatty black bird with the yellow beak surfaced briefly on my “Popslider suspect” list, only to be dismissed because the sounds I’ve just described didn’t resemble the familiar Spike Jones “Pop Slider” sound that got me interested in them in the first place.

In Mid-May 2006, I don’t hear many full “Pop Slider” calls any more, either. Perhaps they are done pairing off for the mating season and have different songs for nesting and their very gregarious socializing. The full “Pop Slider” call is a two-note song, roughly comparable to a high frequency wolf whistle. But we still do hear a lot of the distinctive upsliding single first note, which I also hear from the starlings in the SF Bay Area.

This topic represents a a lot of bird interest from a person who’s not a birder and not really likely to become one. This bird, of course, has become a beloved tradition. I may never be able to distinguish a vireo from a warbler, but it’s fun “drilling down” to learn more about the details of our environment. Around these here parts, pardner, that includes a LOT of birds!

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