Prairie State Park, Mindenmines, Missouri
June 2, 5:49 a.m.
Sunrise at 5:58 a.m.
A Bell's vireo at dawn. In the darkness, I stand beside the bush in which he sings, marveling at how close to the source I am. As the books say, he seems to ask a question and then answer it, each song with a rising note on the end followed by a song with a falling note.
Curious, I import his songs into my favorite sonagram program and follow along, trying to understand his method. Minute by minute I chart the songs:
A B C A D C A C A E F E C F E G F E F E G
F E G F E G F E G F E F E F E G F E G F
E G E F E G F E G F E G F E G F E G D
F E G D H B H B H B H B H B H B H B H C B H
B H B A C A B H C A B C A C A.
I'm fascinated by what I see. During these five minutes, he uses eight different songs, which I've lettered A-H. He never repeats himself immediately, but often alternates a pair of songs, such as C A C A. And eventually, after leaving song A behind midway through the first minute, he returns to it in the fifth, suggesting that these five minutes have effectively captured his entire song repertoire.
Seeing how songs A, B, C, D, and H (bold) and songs E, F, and G (nonbold) tend to cluster together suggests that he, like some other vireos, also sings in packages.
Yellow-breasted chat, dickcissel, northern bobwhite; and the sound of a prairie train, with nice whistles and a little distant rumble.
Photo by Robert Royse