I’m not a birder, or even what I would call a bird person, but I do enjoy sitting on our patio and watching the birds that visit our feeders. Once or twice I’ve tried keeping a list of species, but inevitably I set it aside and just watch.
I also listen to the bird calls, but mostly just as background to a pleasant day in the backyard. Until yesterday.
Our friends Bob Pitz and Carol Armes came by for lunch on the patio, and afterward Bob pulled out his phone to find out what birds were in our yard. He tapped a microphone icon, and I watched in amazement as the names and pictures of bird species popped up on his phone. It turned out there were seven or eight of them nearby, identified not by sight but by their songs.
The free app, BirdNET Sound ID by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, picks out individual bird songs from the blanket of sounds that surround us and posts them for viewing. As soon as Bob and Carol left, I downloaded the app (which took a while and required Wifi), then hurried into the backyard to try it out.
I was stunned to watch the names and photos of 15 bird species unspool, including some I was used to seeing (American Robin, Northern Cardinal, House Finch), some I had never spotted (Chimney Swift, Yellow-throated Vireo, Great Crested Flycatcher), and one that I had previously thought visited us only in the fall (the gorgeous Cedar Waxwing, shown here).
I love the idea that nature, more than just a dull background to our frenetic lives, is constantly in evidence all around us, dotting our world with beauty that is very, very specific. Thanks to the folks at Cornell, we can tune in and listen.