When I say bird language, I mean the alarm system used by the birds to communicate when predators are moving through the forest.
When I first heard that it was possible to tell from long distances simply by listening to the birds that there was an animal moving out in nature I was so fascinated by the possibility that I immediately started paying more attention to the birds. I wanted to learn all their calls, songs and alarms so that I would be able to understand by their behavior when there were animals around and eventually be able to see those animals.
I remember the first really clear experience for me of using bird alarms to find an animal came one summer a few years ago. I was out at the spot in my yard where I sit to watch the birds and generally just unwind and re-energize from my day. I had been sitting at this spot for a few months and I had started to learn the regular patterns of behavior given by the birds there.
I noticed however on this day amongst the usual visitors and activities that there were two song sparrows making some intense calls in the thick area of firs behind the bird feeder. I listened and waited for a long time and it seemed like they were making noise for no reason until into view from that exact area came a local house cat.
As she moved along the edge of my yard I could see the sparrows moving along with her, looking down and making their scolding alarm calls. As the cat moved out of my yard and down towards the creek beside my neighbors yard I could follow the sound of those alarms as they passed from the song sparrows to the hermit thrush and onward to the juncos.
It was so incredible to be able to follow the movements of the cat even after the cat left my sight line.
The real test of my observations for me however is whether or not I can reproduce my success. Whether or not I had heard the alarms I still would have seen the cat... so I set out discover if I could find a cat that would normally have escaped my awareness by paying attention to the bird language.
A few days later I was outside laying in the sun when I heard the tacking alarms of some juncos. They were alarming in the same way I had heard around the cat earlier in the week. I wondered "could that be another cat?"
I followed the source of the noise around the side of the house and I had a clear sight to the firs where the birds were centered. I didn't see anything but continued to stalk up as quietly as I could to try and spot what the juncos were looking at.
I approached a small trail on the far side of the yard and right near where the juncos were making that sound, I spooked a cat who had been slinking up the trail. My cat test was successful.
I love Bird Language.