[CT Birds] Listening

Julie Keefer julie.keefer at gmail.com
Sat Mar 6 10:01:19 EST 2010

I totally agree that learning the skill greatly expands your birding
horizons and it definitely makes a good birder better.  My dad has over 1300
birds on his life list and is a very good birder but his birding by ear
skills are horrible! :)  He just doesn't have the ear for it and I think he
is proud of me for learning it since he was the one who taught me to bird
and got me interested when I was younger.  I think he is a bit jealous too
when we go birding together and I rattle off what we are hearing!  I have a
long way to go though before I've seen as many birds as he has! 

On another note, my brother's daughter loves birds so I sent her a CD for
her 2nd birthday last year and now even she can identify about 10 of the
common birds they have in their yard by sound!  It amazes me someone so
young can identify birds as well as she can.  My brother never really got
into birding like I have but now he is becoming much more interested in it
as he birds with his daughter.

I decided to learn to bird by ear several years ago because it always
frustrated me to hear a bird singing and never be able to find it to
identify it.  I bought some CDs and listened to them over and over.  I was
amazed at how many birds I was missing just in my own backyard!!  The
Ovenbird was the first lifer I identified by sound.  I had no idea we had
Ovenbirds breeding in the woods around our house (this was in Raleigh, NC).
I think I must have always mistaken them for Carolina Wrens because I wasn't
listening carefully enough.  I even discovered we had Yellow-billed Cuckoos
in those woods though I never saw one in the yard (though I saw plenty
nearby at the lake).  It was amazing and I still look forward to spring and
listening for the birds to arrive!

Anyway, it is a great skill to try to learn and simply listening in your
backyard is a great way to start!

Roy, my guess is that 3-noted song you heard may have been a titmouse.  They
continue to amaze me with the variety of songs they have!  Not sure what was
making that trill!  Pine Siskins have a rising trill and Juncos trill but I
would not describe it as rising.  And I doubt there are any warblers around
yet!  Good luck with your mystery.  It is one of the things that makes
birding so much fun!!

Julie Keefer

-----Original Message-----
From: ctbirds-bounces at lists.ctbirding.org
[mailto:ctbirds-bounces at lists.ctbirding.org] On Behalf Of Roy Harvey
Sent: Friday, March 05, 2010 11:26 PM
To: ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org
Subject: [CT Birds] Listening

Birding by ear is probably the most important skill that separates the
beginner from the more experienced birder.  For those who have not taken
this step yet, I encourage you to start.  You can not imagine how much it
expands your birding horizons until you experience it.

March is a great time to get started.  The variety of birds is still pretty
limited, and they all seem to be singing their hearts out.  In a month or
two there will be many times more species to sort out, but right now it is
not as complicated.

It is not a skill most of us pick up quickly.  I spent years learning the
easier and common birds, in many cases re-learning the same ones the each
year.  Eventually, season by season, even I found I was recognizing a lot
though I am far from expert at this.  It is also something you never finish
mastering, there is always more to learn.  It becomes especially interesting
when I encounter a song I do not recognize!  Today I followed an unfamiliar
three-note song and found a mixed flock of titmice, chickadees, nutchatches,
Golden-crowned Kinglets and Brown Creepers.  That song stopped so I never
did identify the singer.  Then another unfamiliar song started, a short
rising trill, but I never managed to sort out who it was coming from.
(Playing recordings later shed no more light on the question.)  So a little
attention to songs turned a quite morning of birding with "just the usual
birds" into an intriguing (though unsolved) puzzle.

Roy Harvey
Beacon Falls, CT

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