Sunday, April 5, 2009


When I went out in search of the Golden-Crowned Kinglet yesterday I prepared a bit since this would be a new species for me and I wanted to maximize my chances of finding it. Naturally I consulted all my field guides and some online resources to get an idea of what the little chirper looks like. I also hunted up some sound recordings of its vocalizations. I forget exactly when or under what circumstances, but it occurred to me some time last year that there is a breed of birder who is so skilled in identifying birds solely by sound that they count as "found" the ones they hear as well as the ones they see. I do alright with the easy, common ones like Black-capped Chickadees and Northern Cardinals. But if my life depended on standing in the middle of a springtime woodland naming every bird I heard I'd be a goner.

Still, I appreciate the value of hearing as well as seeing in bird identification and hope to keep increasing my own skill. Last summer I saw a Marsh Wren for the first time. On first sighting I wasn't sure that's what it was. But since it kept vocalizing I listened to it carefully and jotted down a description of it's song. Once home, I found some audio clips online that confirmed what I thought. In that process and since then I've found several bird song resources on the Internet that are fun and informative to explore. Sites like the Patuxent Bird Identificaion InfoCenter, Whatbird and the Bird Guide section of Cornell's All About Birds include audio samples in their species description pages. Mangoverde has some audio files from around the world in its World Bird Guide and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library has an enormous collection of animal sound and video files.

And if you're interested in just ambient recordings from nature, many can be found at The Freesound Project. Here audio recordists from around the world upload sound files of anything and everything for free use with proper credit. It was this site that got me kicking myself for not taking any audio recording equipment with me to Ecuador. I would love to be able to relive the mornings in the cloud forest or on the islands through sound. I may go ahead and get some basic equipment to take with me on this summer's camping trips just to try making some recordings of my own.

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