Introduction and First Trip to the Dell Pond

For our Biogrounds Blog Posts, our group decided that we’d like to make a timeline of UVA’s Bird Song.  Throughout the second half of the Spring 2015 semester, we will alternate taking recordings of bird song at the Dell Pond and along Observatory Hill/behind Hereford.  We selected these two locations by looking at the birds blog from last year and noting the most popular bird habitats.   Every week we will write a blog post that will include our sound recordings, a simple timeline, a few pictures and a reflection on how the experience made us feel.  We will identify the birds to the best of our ability, but are hoping more to focus on the emotional and mental impact of spending some time just listening.  To start the project, we created a schedule and ordered a recording device, specifically the Sony ICDTX50 Digital Flash Voice Recorder.

I started the project with a trip to the Dell Pond on March 26, 2015 around 9:45 in the morning.  My trip was delayed a bit because of the rain, the temperature was around 55 °F and it was cloudy when I left my apartment.  As I walked over to the pond, I tried to focus on bird song along the way.  I was amazed at the consistency of the noise, there were only a few moments during my walk where there was total silence from the birds.  In fact, the loudest bird I heard during this trip was nesting in the roof atop The College Inn!  Although I heard many birds, I didn’t see many.  This changed immediately as I arrived at the Dell Pond, birds were noticeably more visible and definitely louder.

 I started by slowly and silently walking around the pond.  I know our group elected not to focus on identifying the birds, but I felt that I immediately wanted to know all the different species I was seeing!  I recognized cardinals, robins, sparrows and ducks.

There were a few other species I didn’t recognize including a black bird with a yellow-orange stripe at the top of its wing.  I pulled out my phone and did some googling and eventually correctly identified a red-winged blackbird!  Without a doubt I saw at least 20 birds.  I tried to take pictures of the birds, but I didn’t have much luck.  After walking around the pond, I sat on a very wet bench and spent some time just listening.  It was incredibly relaxing.  My older brother used to be a very avid bird-watcher and I never really understood the draw.  But as I was sitting on the bench, I understood.  There was nothing to distract my focus and I wasn’t worried about anything.  The fact that I was getting slightly rained on and my shoes were getting muddy didn’t bother me at all!  With a bit of focus, the sound of the water and the birds over-powered the noises from nearby Emmet Street.

I often tried to look for the birds that were making specific calls.  Sometimes I would hear a bird and immediately be able to spot it, other times I would search the trees and could not find the creature at all!  For a brief second I thought I saw a blue jay, but then I couldn’t find it again.  After a while I decided to walk along the stream, parallel to Old Dorms.  I found myself following a cardinal that kept flying away as I approached it, cardinals are quite loud birds! The longer recording is from my walk along the stream.

Eventually the stream ran out and I ended my trip.  Bird song is something that often is background noise, but I think this adventure has taught me to have a greater appreciation for it.  Even now, sitting in New Cabell writing this post, I can hear bird song.  This experience has really brightened my day and I think I’d like to visit the Dell Pond again.

Red-Winged Blackbird audio recording:  150326_005

Birds heard walking along the stream: 150326_010


Post by Emily Beacham