Thursday, May 12, 2016

Birding By Ear Saves Time And Your Neck

 For the first few years that I went birding during spring migration I would get a condition known as warbler neck. This is when muscles in the upper shoulders and neck stiffen up from looking up in the trees with binoculars trying to find warblers and other returning migrant birds. It's no joke. My fingers actually started to go numb one year from a pinched nerve. That's when I decided to rely more on my ears to find birds. 

I'm now more selective about which birds I search for with binoculars. For example, I know you can get nice views of Ovenbirds (photo) without having to look in the tops of  trees since they stay closer to the ground. 
 It also helps when you know the songs of some birds so you can zero in on birds that you may be eager to see like an Indigo Bunting.
Birding by ear is more efficient because you don't have to chase down every bird to know what it is. I probably heard a dozen Louisianna Waterthrushes before I actually got a good look at one. Instead of chasing after waterthrushes I spent time searching for other species which I had not yet seen.

I had some time off in May so I tried my best to find as many as the incoming migrants that I could as quickly as possible and was able to find most of  what I was looking for. Now I can do my birding at a more relaxing pace. There will be plenty time to take photos, check out different places, and take in the beauty without the urgency of trying to find species I haven't seen yet.
 (county list is at 165).


Linda said...

I have to admit to knowing very little about the various sounds of birds. I lived in Montreal, Canada, and it is quite a large city so I don't get to see very many birds. Still, I know the song of a robin, and am working on getting more familiar with the sounds of all the birds I see. :) Gorgeous series of capture, I especially love your first photo!

Larry said...

The key is to learn the songs of familiar birds like Robins and then try to find the birds with unfamiliar songs to identify them so you are on your way!

KGMom said...

Larry, this post is most timely for me. We live in a suburban area, and I am a very amateur birder. I can identify the usual birds that visit our feeders by their calls. But, there is one call I hear and I just can't pin it down. It is a two tone call, repeated. High note then low note.
Is there an app for I-phones that would help me?

Larry said...

I'm sure there is or you could get stokes bird song cd's from amazon or the library and put it onto an ipod if you want.They have a device called birdjam but never bought one because it is expensive. Here is a link from Cornell about bird song