Birding with Luka (the pup) and David (the app)
Luka, a little beagle-dachshund mix of five months is new to us. Seeing how she would act out in the field was important, as spring birding is my heaven right here on earth. She performed admirably, staying quietly nearby, keeping an eye on me and only occasionally, when I stood all too still, all too long, looking for that elusive bird in the brush, did she grow bored and wander off. But never very far did she go, for she is a devoted dog.
My other companion was David Allen Sibley, premier bird artist and field guide author. He was with me only in app form, but that’s ok for he performed admirably as well. Too often in the past when confused about a warbler’s song and unable to get a good view of the bird, I would try singing the song over and over in my head converting it to a familiar sentence or phrase, somehow trying to commit it to memory. At home the search began listening to Donald Kroodsma’s, The Singing Life of Birds CDs; but by then all the songs started sounding the same.
Now I have on my phone all the songs and maps and paintings that I need. The first time I used it was up on a scrubby power line, birding with my friend Mary (she has the ears and I have the eyes, so we made a great team). We kept hearing this little “Sweeta, sweeta, sweeta, chee-ee-ee-ee.” The birds were elusive, off in the brush and proving impossible to find. I thought they might be Nashville warblers, but wasn’t sure, so I played the “1. NY song” and sure enough, that was it. Then, as to prove a point, a couple of males flew around our heads chipping at us to let us know we were trespassing. Mary and I laughed joyously, promising not to overuse our new tool.
Calling a male out of its territory to attack an intruder, even a smartphone one, takes energy away from what they really need to be doing to reproduce, and that is what spring is all about. Thanks to being able to hear birdsongs immediately, I have found and identified many warblers this spring, some on the scrubby power line and some along the Ompomponoosuc River below: Chestnut-sided warblers (sweetsweetsweet sweetchou), Yellow warblers (sweet,sweet,sweee-ee-eet), Magnolia warblers (sweeta,sweeta), Yellow-rumped warblers (sweet,sweet,sweet, he-eee-ee-ee), and American Redstarts whom I also hear all summer in in the village (sweetasweetasweet). With all this sweetness, one can see how an immediate playing of the song helps.
There are many apps out there now to help with birding; a recent update to my Sibley’s has made it even easier to use. It is under $20.
Sibley e-Bird Guide to Birds of North America https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sibley-eguide-to-birds-north/id354101483?mt=8
Donald Kroodsma’s, The Singing Life of Birds CDs http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6263.The_Singing_Life_of_Birds