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Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Birding by Ear

February 4, 2007

Ruby_kingletChers Amis,

Caddie has done it again.  Found a new bird for our birding list au moulin.  This time it was the Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  They are one of the smallest birds in North America after the Ruby-Throated Humming bird.  Lovely!  Unfortunately I am near-sighted (or is it far-sighted?)  Up close I have excellent vision, but everything becomes slightly blurry at about 12 feet.  Not good vision for birding.  Caddie has fabulous vision and spotting ability for anything and everything.  I’ll never forget one time when she was about 3 or 4 she saw a praying mantis egg case (ootheca) high up on the trunk of a dogwood. I did spot a Brown Creeper last week circling the trunk of one of our pines.

Since my vision is not the best for birding and we only have one pair of good binoculars (Note to self:  put on next year’s birthday/Christmas list – research now) I have always wanted to learn to recognize bird songs.  Enter stage right my new favorite three CD set Birding by Ear: Eastern and Central North America. I am in love – enchanted by this audio field guide/short course.  My MIL gave me a gift certificate for B&N for Christmas and this is the treasure I took home.  Did I say I love it?  I do!  So do the kids.  On the way to mass this morning Pippin insisted Dad turn on disk three so he could hear the flute like Wood thrush and the downward-spiraling Veery.

If you have any interest in learning to identify bird calls I would highly recommend this set.  TheBirding_1
narrator/instructor groups 85 birds by call types ( i.e. mimics, woodpeckers, sing-songers, hawks, chippers and trillers, high pitchers, owls etc.) plays their calls and songs and gives you handles or phrases to listen for.  He than replays the audio so you can hear it again.  Often he plays the songs of the birds from a group at the end of the track in a new order so you can test your ear.  The third DC has a final section where the bird songs/calls are grouped by habitat, introduced by number and NOT identified on the CD as a self test.  The answers are in the useful 63 page liner note/book that comes with the set.  It has a small ink drawing of each bird, the latin name, a page number that will take you to the entry for that species in the Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, info on the habitat,  when it sings and from where (in the open, from tree branch etc.).  It also gives a summary of the Voice or call, pointing out details to remember about both the call and song. 

We have listened to the entire set and now we are making as list of those birds we have already identified in our yard.  Next we are learning the calls of those birds – working from the know to the unknown.  It is so enjoyable.  I could recognize the common calls we hear daily, but couldn’t put a name to most of them.  Now I hear chever-chever-chever and know it is the tufted titmouse, fee-bee e-bay is the Carolina Chickadee and not the also present Black Capped Chickadee, and the haunting summertime standards ee-o-lay and drink-your-tea are from separate songsters.  Oh! an the owls, mourning dove and the woodpeckers, don’t get me started. . . This week I hope to make flash cards with the call notes/song prompts on one side and the picture on the other.  It would be great for a game, "What bird’s call sounds like Daddy starting his lawnmower?"  The Ruffed Grouse of course!

If you want a great starting point, go to the Great Backyard Bird Count, scroll down to take a look at your state or province bird list.  You can enter your zip code and see a printable February bird list for you own area.  There is a hyper link to the Cornell site for each bird on the list where you can learn more about their call, nests, eggs, habits etc.  I especially like clicking on the audio clips as you get not only the audio but a sonograph of their call!  Even if my eyes aren’t the best, I am still SO visual.  While you are there, print out a list for your yard and join the Great Backyard Bird Count.  Happy Birding!

— Marjorie

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2007 4:15 pm

    Thanks for the link to the Backyard Bird Count. (Turns out that the ruby-throated hummingbirds which visit us every summer are rare to our area. Who knew?) Katydid will appreciate this list very much.

  2. February 4, 2007 9:22 pm

    We LOVE the backyard bird count. I have a father who is a pure naturalist and loves birding as well, especially birds of prey!! Thanks for all the great links!
    Vous etes tourjours fantastique! Merci!

  3. February 4, 2007 9:43 pm

    We will be counting with you! But I do hope that my new contacts are here and working well by then!

  4. February 7, 2007 7:18 am

    Marjorie, we will be taking part in the Count, too!

    We had a similar bird this fall – a golden-crowned kinglet! He has come twice these past two autumns and each time he crashed into our sliders! (Thankfully he was ok each time.)

    Thank you for the resource recommendations – I am fairly good at visual identification, but terrible at birdsong! 🙂

  5. February 16, 2007 9:17 am

    Oh, I am so bad at ID by ear. The only ones I can recognize with any regularity are the Pileated woodpecker and the rufous sided towhee. Other than that, forget it. I guess I need that CD!

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