As I left work today I had take a trail through a wooded portion of the property to reach my car that was parked on an adjacent cul-de-sac. I was tired and my mind was wandering, so I was much less attuned to my wooded surroundings than is expected of someone bearing the title of naturalist. Lost in my thoughts, I gradually became aware that I was hearing a voice, and before I consciously decided to do so I began to attempt to imitate that voice.
I don’t know if it’s an obsessive/compulsive tendency or just a side-effect of being a vocal animal, but I often find myself imitating bird calls and other animal noises that I hear. In this case, I was hearing a call that was extremely high pitched, and as I continued to walk and think, I was absentmindedly using my tongue to make whistling noises that approximated the call. Every time I heard the call, I imitated it, still only semi-conscious of the fact that I was doing so. I was finally pulled out of my mind and back into my immediate surroundings when the call came back to me so loud that it sounded like it was right next to my ear.
I stopped and looked to my right. My eyes were drawn to movement on a tree trunk just 4 feet away. A Brown Creeper was foraging on the trunk at eye level, and as I watched he began to work his way slowly upward. After moving vertically for about five feet, the creeper paused and let out the distinct vocalization that I had just been trying to imitate. He seemed to pause for a moment as if to say, “That’s how it’s done!” and then he disappeared into the forest. I walked the rest of trail in silence, leaving the singing to the more refined voice that was now fading into the distance.