Interning at Wild Basin — a Study on Texas’ Native Bird: Golden-Cheeked Warbler

Written by Dania Marín

This semester, I am working with Dr. Proppe at Wild Basin.
The purpose of this project is to find a reason as to why Golden-Cheeked Warbler (GCW) B songs have changed overtime. Previous studies have concluded that from 2008, their B songs are no longer exactly the same, and this project intends to analyze those comparisons from 2008 and 2022.

What I am working on is analyzing several song files recorded in 2008, which consists on going through the file, finding clear non-overlapped songs, labeling them per number of syllable (1-5) and identifying their note (buzz, tone, trill, up-swoop, down-swoop). In most occasions, a syllable will contain several parts to it as shown in the practice examples below.

Although GCW arrive in early March, they begin singing A songs and what we are analyzing are B songs. However, once they begin by mid-March, I will use a shot-gun microphone to record B songs. The process of this involves going to several of their habitat locations for several weeks, including a few parks in the Balcones Canyonlands, Wild Basin, St. Edwards, and attempt to catch at least 5 songs per recording. After this, I am meant to gather all of my recorded songs and equally analyze them as I did with the 2008 files in the same Raven Pro program.

Official analyzing within the program looks like this:

By bringing the Table 1 content up, these tables will appear, showing where everything is meant to go. Variant refers to the number of variants, or different kinds of songs, a file has. This means that while most songs remain consistent per file, they will be classified as different variants if they are not exactly the same, and this may just be a minor difference such as having an up-swoop for 2a vs. a down-swoop for 2a in another song within the same file. The type of note per song is also abbreviated as follows:

buzz – b
tone – tn
trill – tr (as well as counting the number of trills produced in the Count (trill) column)
us – up-swoop
ds – down-swoop

Based on previous studies, I have found it so interesting that an occasional bird will not sing or sing only once in comparison to the rest in spite of being together and regardless of what season it may be for them (pre- vs. post-mating season). The reason for this I do not know, but I would like to assume that each bird may have its own personality. These birds also tend to switch from A songs—before mating—to B songs—after mating, and I have yet to understand this behavior better.
Because it is too early to tell what will come of this study and my results, I can only speculate that there must be some adaptive response occurring where they travel to and upon returning to Austin, these changes have been gradually visible overtime. It may also have to do with being in danger of extinction and likewise, there is some level of evolutionary adaptation happening where they have been pushed to change the way they communicate with each other in order to survive.

I had an instance while analyzing 2008 songs where this song came up. Usually, most songs contain 5 syllables, with the inclusion of a-d parts that also tend to vary, as shown in the example image above. But this song in particular was so long! Of course, there is no way to conclude why. They sing as they please and on rare occasions, an odd song may be present where the natural pattern of their song is unpredictable. When I first saw this song, I had no idea how to analyze it at all. In the end, however, it is so long that it is no good for analyzing and keep it in the data.

Because I have yet to go into the field and begin recording and in the meantime have been primarily working remotely, I am only able to provide these pictures of the times I went to Wild Basin.

Near the visitor center, there is a log with these mushrooms growing on it. I really love it; I think it is beautiful.

I look forward to seeing the waterfall, however.

[10.03.22 edit]

I saw the waterfall!



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