Thursday, February 14, 2013

Owl Head for Singers

Okay, so the project I'm working on is called the Starling Cloud Choir, but the bird that really started it all was a Barred Owl at UBC Farm. A birder picked out the subtle call of a Barred Owl and described the song with the mnemonic phrase "Who cooks for you?" Suddenly I could hear it too! This was my first exposure to birding by ear.

 My mom is a good birder. When I phone her she always tells me about the weather in Saskatchewan, the crops (in season), and the birds that have visited the feeders she puts out for them. I am very lucky to have grown up in a flyway and witnessed thousands of geese, sandhill cranes, ducks and swans land in fields nearby as they followed their migration path. I grew up in a hunting/conservation culture, but that's a subject for another time. We also lived by an abandoned farmhouse where a Great Horned Owl often sat in the paneless window, like a grand familiar. I've been lucky to see my share of snowy owls too.

I was fascinated to read Bird Chick's posts on judging a contest for the WORST bird photo. Sometimes bad photos make really good stories! I love the comment made by the woman who couldn't trash the blurry grainy photo of the snowy owl. It's hard to throw out a photo of such an awesome bird. So next thing you know, I'm walking down the street, two blocks from my house and what do I see? A frickin' owl on a roof. I'm thinking "Is that one of those plastic owls they use to scare pigeons?" And then it turned its head. OMG. It was a Barred Owl and it was being dive bombed by turns from a murder of crows in a nearby tree. The crows could not ruffle the feathers of this owl, even if sometimes it literally had to duck to avoid them. Every once in a while it would roll it's head up and around and
hiss.  Did I have my camera with me? NO. Blast it!

It is this easy rolling of the neck that made me think--wouldn't it be nice to have such freedom and mobility in that part of the body. It's important to let go of neck tension when you are singing. You should be using just enough energy to keep your head from falling over. So think "owl neck" and just give yourself the gentle command to let go of any extra tension before you sing.

BTW, I tried my barred owl imitation on the bird and he had absolutely no response!

No comments:

Post a Comment