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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

First Rate Bird Calling Contest

Air Date: Week of

The Leonard J. Waxdeck bird-calling competition has been a tradition since the 1960's in Piedmont, California bringing the town some international notoriety. Producer JoAnn Mar attended this year's competition and sent us this sound portrait.


KNOY: In a high school auditorium in Piedmont, California a few hundred people gather for an unusual contest. The Leonard J. Waxdeck bird-calling competition has been an annual tradition since the 1960's in Piedmont. And it has brought the town international notoriety. After a short hiatus, the contest is back by popular demand. Producer JoAnn Mar attended this year's competition and sent us this sound portrait.

ANNOUNCER: Good afternoon.

(Audience laughs)

... and welcome to the Piedmont High School thirty-third Annual Leonard. J. Waxdeck bird-calling contest.

PIAZZO: My name is Joe Piazzo, and I am the faculty advisor for the Piedmont High School bird-calling contest. It started thirty-three years ago with a biology teacher, Mister Waxdeck, who thought it would be fun to get a group of kids together and practice some bird calls, just try and find a fun way of teaching ornithology.

GIRL: The Pelliated Woodpecker: Bradrbradabradabradabradabradabradabradabradabradabradabradabrada (kissing noises), brhrbrhbrhbrh -- eeheeeeheeeeheeeeheeeeehehee

TWO GIRLS: Thank you!

(Audience applauds and cheers)

GIRL 1: Barb?

GIRL 2: What is it there Margie?

GIRL 1: I see a greater Prairie Chicken!

GIRL 2: Oh gosh, let me see those binoculars. Oh yah, what do you say we give it a call?

BOTH GIRLS: Oh yah, let's do, okay.
Awahyahwahyaywahyaywah yah (Smacking sounds)

GIRL 1: (Explaining) We slap some arms and hands to get a kind of a fluttering sound, and then we did some screeching, which is pretty obnoxious, but the birds tend to be kind of crazy.

BOTH GIRLS: Whuh whu whu whuh wheep whee wheep whee wheep whee whee whee...

BOY 1: Bamp bam bamp bam bum buh buh...

BOY 2: (Sings a song) Well if you ever go up north, I've got a question to ask ya,
I don't know much about ornithology but, I know the state bird of Alaska!

PIAZZO: It's a novelty. It is highly unusual and extremely entertaining. Strange, absurd sounds, and yet their real sounds. They're common in our environment. We may not be so aware of them until we study them, or hear them.

2 BOYS SINGING: Willo Ptarmagen, Willo Ptarmagen, by now we hope that you're all enriched. You will always be able to tell its unique and crazy yell, 'cause it sounds exactly like this. Arr arr whhe uh whee uh Urr urr aar arr ur urr...

(Audience laughs)

MAN: My bird, the Snowy Egret, stands about two feet tall when fully grown. Commonly it's seen in shallow streams and marshes: Raap raat raap yay yay ya raat raap raat raap raat yah yap yap yap wah wah wah. Thank you.

(Audience applauds)

MAN: (To reporter) It's way of perhaps laughing at ourselves, that we glamorize these birds and their bird calls in a particular way and we can all share in that joy and laughter.

ANNOUNCER: The judges have deliberated. The winners are... John Schomway and Carl Morren.

(Audience cheers)

KNOY: Sounds from this year's Leonard J. Waxdeck birdcalling contest in Piedmont, California produced by JoAnn Mar.

ANNOUNCER: And if you all would like to do your bird call again you can. Go for it!

SEVERAL CONTESTANTS: Screech! Scraw! Whoop! Yeep! Yah! Hee! Wubba wubba! Yay yay yah yah!

ANNOUNCER: Thank you!



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