Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Birding by Ear

The month of May can be frustrating for birders, especially for those with limited experience.  On the one hand, birdsong is reaching its annual peak as summer and permanent residents engage in nesting and territorial behavior and as a parade of migrants are passing through the region.

On the other hand, the shrubs and trees are now fully leafed-out, obscuring the location (and identity) of the numerous songsters; in other words, birds seem to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time.  Standing beneath large deciduous trees of the Midwest, one can often identify a variety of tunes but cannot locate their source.  Of course, the solution to this mid-spring conundrum is to learn to identify the various migrant and resident species by their songs and calls, not just by their appearance.

Easier said than done, avid birders come to appreciate the value of this skill and, over the years, become adept at audio-identification; fortunately, digital recordings are now available to assist with that learning process.  As with other human skills, some of us are more talented than others and practice is essential.  Handicapped in this area myself, I have found it helpful to sit on the back deck and just listen for a while; when uncertain, I try to confirm my identification by sight but, amidst the luxuriant foliage of May, that is often difficult!