Monday, March 03, 2008

Lester is practicing a new song

--a version of "who's my good baby b?"--one of the many silly things I say to him all the time. He's now learned it and is experimenting with incorporating it into his repertoire. If I go into the living room to look at him or even talk to him, he'll stop--when he's practicing, he likes to be alone. On Mondays, Mark works late, and I work here in the afternoon and eat a very early meal so I have time to digest before my 6:30 yoga practice. Lester and I eat together; after I go back to working in the study, and Lester practices his songs.

Lester will spend weeks perfecting a new phrase or song. He often will get the tone or rhythm of the vocalization first before he begins to enunciate it. Moreover, Lester likes to develop several different versions of the same song. For example, he has several different laugh sounds that he uses in different situations. When Mark or I talk vigorously on the phone or with each other, he'll make a loud, guffawing sound. He also has two different higher, more twittery laughs that he uses.

I've blogged before about how Lester says "peep," which is a version of him imitating Mark and I imitating him. However, Lester's favorite song is "salt peanuts," followed by a three-note salt peanuts whistle. He does at least three different versions of "salt peanuts," one that is like me, one like Mark, and one like our friend Dan, who met Lester as a baby bird and spent a lot of time talking with him. Lester also does the three-note whistle in multiple keys, depending on what he's just sung before it and what he plans to sing after it.

I think he might also be learning "I love you," but it's hard to hear clearly from here.

After Lester has incorporated a new song or phrase into his repertoire, he likes to riff on it--he'll combine one part of a song or phrase with another part, or sing everything in a different order.

My understanding of domestic happiness and order has been deeply influenced by Lester's afternoon practice sessions--and by birdsong in general. A vocalizing bird is a healthy, happy bird. Mark's parakeets would sing vigorously at sunrise and sunset, whenever there was music on, and whenever anyone sung or talked with them. They liked to join in the party.

I remember taking a nap one afternoon in our old apartment at 1401 N Street NW in Washington, DC. Lester thought I was asleep, so he felt free to practice. At that time, I knew he was vocalizing, but I hadn't clearly picked out any of his specific sounds. In a sort of half-awake daze, I listened to him practicing some of the first vocalizations he picked up living with Mark and I--"salt peanuts," "Lester's a pretty bird" and their corresponding whistles. Of course, when I got up from the couch, he stopped practicing.

Lester does vocalize when people are around, especially when people are talking energetically or there's music on--but he doesn't practice then; he practices in privacy, on calm afternoons or early evenings, preferably after we've both eaten a meal.


rodney k said...

All this amazes, but especially his imitation of you imitating him: "peep." The postmodern mind at work. Lester's my favorite bird in blogland, ever.

K. Lorraine Graham said...

Lester's "peep" is pretty amazing! I'll pass along your praise to him ; )