Birding by ear is so important and one of the key elements to a good birding day as opposed to a not so good birding day (there are no bad birding days) and to be brutally honest about it, I suck. I have no audio memory. I actually retain maybe 1 new birdcall every year, which means by the time I am about 400, I may have all of them down pat. My memory path is visual. I can literally see the pages of the bird guide in my head, so all I have to do is close my eyes read it. While this is a good thing and a trick I have relied on for years and years in the field, (and in life) it does not help to locate the bird. To add insult to injury, I am deaf in one ear. I sort of hear in mono. So I end up turning around and around on the path like a broken wind-up toy trying to figure out where the sound is coming from. As result, you would think I try to bird a lot with other people. Nooooo. Of course not, that would make too much sense. (I also live up here on the mountain. Not a lot of birders up here.) My friend Diane (who does not live on the mountain) has an excellent ear. I try to finagle birding with her as often as she will tolerate it.
I have a lot of respect for all of you birders that can hear the difference between a Robin, a Scarlet Tanager (except for chick-burrr) , or for that matter a Redstart. On one of my ListServs there is talk about how hard it is to hear the difference between a Pine Warbler and a Junco. I don't even think I have ever heard a Pine Warbler, but who knows, maybe I have and just assumed it was a Junco, or for that matter, a Chipping Sparrow.
Sigh. I can’t do it. For me it needs to be short, sweet and onomatopoetic like Bee-buzzzzzzz, whippoorwill, Ol’ Sam Peabody, or murmuringtrees.
I have Birding by Ear on my ipod and a very long flight coming up. Maybe this year will be different. I’ll let you know.