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Notes from Field and Study

Collecting a Brown Thrasher’s Song

Rustler, my pet Brown Thrasher, was pouring out his loud, long, spring song. A phonograph, or rather a graphophone, had been left on a table by the cage. Everything seemed to favor the collection of a bird song. I placed the instrument so that the open funnel of the horn came within less than a foot of the Thrasher's swelling throat, and touching a lever, set the wax cylinder revolving below a sapphire-tipped style, which cut the bird notes into the wax. Just as the medley changed from that of a Catbird to that of a Wood Thrush, a Robin flew past the window. Rustler stopped short, but the style continued to cut and ruin the wax cylinder. When Rustler started in again he hopped to the opposite side of the cage, rudely turning his back upon the graphophone.

More than a little vexed at the perversity of dumb animals, I quickly covered over the end of the cage farthest from the graphophone; then Rustler sulked beneath the cloth in silence. Next I removed the perch from that side and then Rustler absolutely refused to sing any more. Some hours later, however, I made another attempt, but each time the graphophone was started the whir of the revolving cylinder cut short my Thrasher′s rich, rippling notes, so that the only thing to do was to remove the recording style and accustom him to the noise of the cylinder, and when this had been accomplished, I replaced the recording style. I found that by shutting off the graphophone the instant Rustler's notes became weak or stopped, I could catch a continuous series of notes. I succeeded the following morning in getting a pretty fair song. It was not so loud as it might have been, but in pitch and timbre it was perfect.

In September dear old Rustler died. For nine long years he had enlivened my northern New Jersey home with his cheery music. In November, at a meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union, the notes of Rustler′s love song fell sweetly upon sympathetic ears. —Sylvester D. Judd, Ph. D., Washington, D. C.