04 January 2005

Outbelting the Swedish Songbird

Florid(ian) sounds

After rousing my senses with Madonna's album American Life this morning (I use no coffee in my life), I shifted seamlessly to the art of two equally strong presences of a previous generation, Birgit Nilsson (the Swedish Songbird, as per the towel story told at the Jimmy gala) and Martha Mödl, in the scene of Waltraute's visitation in Götterdämmerung (Philips release of Karl Böhm's 1967 Bayreuth Ring). Midway through Brünnhilde's exposition, I was startled off my laptop by the most intense, high-pitched chorus of nature veiling the trees that surround our back porch.

Birgit was easily drowned by this more immediate visitation. A quick and dirty consult with a bird pamphlet (everyone's an amateur bird watcher) revealed that we'd just been called upon by thousands of European starlings. The Museum of Natural Sciences (North Carolina) provides the requisite romantic NYC connection: "Originally from Europe, Sturnus vulgaris was introduced in New York's Central Park in 1890, reportedly by someone who wished to establish all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works in the New World. From that release of 100 starlings has descended a United States population of 140 million to 200 million."

A sample of their song can be found here. Multiplied by about 10,000 and one gets a feel of what we have to contend with down here (along with the 75 degree weather, relentless blue skies, fresh gulf breeze, grouper sandwiches, ...). Meanwhile, a Hummer passing through the neighborhood precipitated their flight to the next island: