This starts with my ornithology teaching assistant in college, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
I LOVE ornithology. A generalist class: bird wings, ecology, biology, zoology, physics of flight and they SING! Also we walk around in the woods with the teaching assistants trying to see and hear birds. We memorize their songs and markings.
We go out at night. Our teaching assistant hears a barn owl. He replies. He is an expert at that call. The barn owl answers. After a few back and forths, the barn owl swoops over us, coming to check out the caller! The barn owl is unnerving and gorgeous, passing just over our heads.
We all talk to the birds. We make pshhh, pshhh, pshhh noises and lbbs (little brown birds) will sometimes hop out on a branch, curious about us. Hooray! It’s a warbler!
We practice our bird songs.
Fast forward to the present. I walk with my friend and he is messing with his enormous zoom lens. We see crows harrying something in the top of a tree. A hawk, who calls. I start answering. The hawk is young and calling its parents. It’s the time when the parents say, you have to go hunt. My friend gets an amazing picture of the hawk looking right at us, mouth open, crying. I dig around on my cell phone, and think it’s a Swainson’s hawk. I play the Swainson’s song and then the young hawk REALLY cries: I feel terrible, as if I have teased the young one. Yes, it’s a Swainson.
We run in to two young bucks. I sing to deer. The deer are always alert and ready to run when I appear, but when I sing they just stand and look at me. My friend takes a photograph of the buck, just watching and listening to me.
My friend finds a fawn in his yard. The mother leaves the fawn for 8-24 hours. My friend has a low fence around most but not all of the yard.
The doe returns for the fawn one day. My friend is outside. The mother hops the fence. The fawn tries to, but it can’t hop high enough. It hits the fence and cries. It tries over and over. My friend goes up slowly and opens the gate. The fawn goes out the gate after he backs off. Both fawn and doe look at my friend.
I stop by his house to pick up a package for him. I park and hop out of my car. A fawn behind the fence startles and goes around the side of the house! It’s late afternoon and two fawns and a doe were lying in the shade in the front yard. The second fawn gets up and mom stands. I hold still and sing to them a little. Then I go in through the gate, get the package and slowly get back in my car.
Word gets around. The other day my friend has six fawns in his yard. He’s charmed and a bit shocked. He is outside. A doe comes and calls her fawn. It’s a bit of a meh or ma sound. My friend tries to make the same sound. Three of the fawns eating grass stop. They turn their ears towards him, alert. One fawn walks up to him….
….so now he’s a fawn caller.