Golden-Crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla), Burnaby Lake Regional Park (Piper Spit): photo by Elaine Wilson, 2006
Golden-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla): photo by Linda Tanner, 2008
The beautiful sad song of the Golden-Crowned Sparrow. A doleful descending triad of clear, piercing notes, quavering in its descent, "three notes given in a descending scale with intervals of thirds: sol, mi, do," as described by the ornithologist Joseph Maillard.
The Golden-Crowned Sparrows come back to a favoured patch of earth every year in autumn. And like the young woman in the great Michael Powell film about the beauty and wisdom of wildness, they know where they're going. To the same spot every time, thanks to an Inbuilt navigational genius, superior to any GPS, and with a far better purpose.
The natural affection of a living creature for a certain place. Being particular, or picky, about it. As in, Nowhere else will ever do.
Golden-Crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla): photo by Steve Jurvetson, 2007
The lovely frequency and regularity of song, its variable formality within a fluid freedom, never waiting upon its own return, always waiting upon its own return.
Oh, dear me. The touching philopatry.
The individual returns to the birthplace. Elder offspring share the parental burden.
It's like the line in the great Darwish poem:
Kin selection has worked out for the Golden-Crowned Sparrow, rewarding a natural virtue (which is its own reward).
Still, it's but a wee twenty-gram speck of a bird, and that flyway between Alaska or British Columbia California is long. A complicated route, with staging areas, molting areas, stop-over spots where there is pause for watering and a little whistling, a few well-earned, weary oh, dear me's.
No gold here, the Golden-Crowned Sparrow sang to the old miner. It will never pan out.
Little Weary Willys, Alaskan miners called the Golden-Crowned Sparrows who hung about the fool's-gold trails, whistling their plaintive Oh, dear me's.