Monday, May 12, 2014

limited options

At about 3:45 this morning, I was scared stiff lying in my bed, staring at my bedside table trying to figure out if I could better kill someone with my 1 oz jar of eye wrinkle cream, lip balm, or my eyeglasses. My option were limited.

Let me explain.

The past few days have been gorgeous here. So last night, I figured I would open my windows to sleep. That, combined with the fact that I washed my sheets with my new Snuggle Scent Booster Pods yesterday, meant that I slept like a rock last night. That is, until 3:45 AM, when I awoke to the distinct sound of someone heavily breathing in close proximity.

My eyes flew open and I froze. I heard a raspy, breathy sound coming from what sounded like my living area like a metronome. It was at this point that I began trying to figure out how I was going to kill/maim this intruder, who had obviously broken in and was sleeping on my couch.

After taking stock of my nearest weapons- eye cream, lip balm, and glasses- I decided hand-to-hand combat was my best bet. I gathered the courage to quietly creep out of bed and peer around the corner- to find an empty apartment. Whewph. But wait, I still heard breathing…

I followed my ears over to my open window to hear a symphony of birds filling the valley as sunlight began to lighten the black sky. The rhythmic wheezy sound was amongst the chorus. It was a just a bird, not an intruder.

I can’t explain what audio-phenomenon was making this bird sound like a person snoring in my apartment, but I wasn’t too concerned about it as I stood at my window, overwhelmed by the birds singing at daybreak this morning. I've heard birds singing at the buttcrack of dawn many times before (re: last summer), but I’ve never heard anything like this morning. It was almost deafening. It sounded like Jurassic Park outside my window.

In songbirds, there is a distinct biological purpose for dawn chorus, as it’s called. It’s almost entirely males calling, either defending territory or trying to impress the ladies. Female birds aren’t sleeping through it, though. They’re paying close attention to which males are up earliest and singing loudest- both signals of fitness that tell the female how studly her sexual options are. I mean, if a guy stood outside my window at 4 in the morning and sang as loud as he could, I’d go on a date with him.

Dawn chorus is actually a thing- in fact, the first Sunday in May is designated as International Dawn Chorus Day, as spring sets in and birds are getting frisky. Bird nerds (I say that lovingly, as I am one myself) have even figured out the order in which different species begin to sing during dawn chorus. This morning, I could hear American Robins, Varied Thrush, Steller’s Jays, and maybe even some woodpeckers. I know there were way more species, but I’m not an accomplished enough bird nerd to tell you what else was singing, and certainly not in what order. If anyone knows what creeper stalker bird sounded like it was breathing in my apartment, feel free to share.

I often write about what morphologies and physical characteristics function is sexual selection, but behaviors can be just as interesting. Like singing your little butt off with BOTH of your voiceboxes (songbirds have two so they can sing more complex and therefore sexy songs) balls early in the morning. Birds put a lot of emphasis on their appearance and their songs in their reproductive strategies. Males with the brightest feathers and the loudest, most impressive song get the ladies. Not all that different from humans, really.

Well. You know where I was trying to go with that.