Archive for October, 2012

Learning Bird Songs

Once when I was a very new birder, I spent 30 minutes in my backyard tracking down a Carolina Wren that I heard singing.  From then on, identifying the songs of the Carolina Wren was pretty easy.  But many bird songs have been much more challenging for me and I still have much to learn.  I have both the “Birding by Ear” series of CD’s ($19.80 from Amazon) and the Stokes CD’s of bird songs and calls.  I especially like “Birding by Ear” for beginning to learn bird songs.  But after a while, it becomes tiresome to hear everything over and over just to get to a few songs that I don’t know well.

I’ve recently discovered Larkwire and found it to be very helpful in improving my skills in identifying bird songs.  The difference in Larkwire is the control that it gives you to study and compare selected groups as well as songs for individual species.  Practicing with this software is what helped me pick out the Scarlet Tanager on our Elk Knob trip this summer.  That’s something that I had not been able to do reliably before using Larkwire.  I like testing myself with the game aspect of Larkwire.  You can select a group of birds, have the program select a song, and try to identify the species.  The expert tips telling you what to listen for and describing the differences in similar songs are also helpful.

My only complaint is that Larkwire does not include more calls, but focuses mainly on song.  I’m especially aware of my inability to identify all the chips and calls that I hear in the fall when many birds are not singing.  Twice this fall, I’ve heard a Ovenbird emphatically chip, but I had no idea what is was until I saw the bird.  It would be nice to be able to listen to all those chips and practice with those, too. Larkwire’s founder, Phil Mitchell, was very responsive when I had a minor support issue, so I suspect that he’s receptive to customer requests and may add bird calls in the future.  Larkwire is constantly evolving with new features and product offerings.  The app version is new and a “Waterbirds” module is coming out in November.

A free demo is available on the website (no credit card required).  Give it a try and let me know how you like Larkwire.

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