You’re out birding and you hear a distinctive bird song–how do you find out what bird it is? This post describes a few ways to find out.
I’ve often read that the better birders identify 80% of their birds by sound. Not sure I believed it at first. After birding in earnest for several years, in which I’ve met a lot of birders, I think that percentage may be on the low side. When birders are in the field they open their ears to background sounds and really are in tune with the nature around them (a real experience in mindfulness).
I’m not much of an audio person, mostly a visual learner. Give me a set of verbal directions and I can’t remember past the first few. Say a word in another language and I struggle to repeat it immediately back. I have trouble remembering what was said in meetings or lectures, although learning piano helped that enormously. And I’m not great at remembering bird songs from year to year.
The easiest thing to do, I suppose, is to send an audio recording to a birder you know and just ask them. Beyond that, here are three methods I’ve used to identify a North American bird from a recording:
- Upload the audio file to the BirdNET site for analysis
- Use the Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern (or Western) North America
- Ask for help on Facebook
These are described below. I hope you find them helpful.
Continue reading “How to Identify a Bird from an Audio Recording” →
Last weekend I found myself birding on Moose Island, a small island in northern Illinois near where the Des Plaines, DuPage and Kankakee Rivers meet to form the Illinois River. Located there is the Four Rivers Environmental Education Center and a pretty walk along the water and through a nice prairie. My brother Brian and I birded there briefly for the first time last year, but I think it was pretty cold at the time.
I also walked back over the bridge and a short distance along the Illinois and Michigan Canal. From 1848 to 1933 the I&M Canal connected the Chicago River to the Illinois River that then feeds into the Mississippi River, thereby providing a waterway from New York Harbor all the way to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.
Below is one view from the island as well as a map of my route, including the short north-south walk along the narrow I&M Canal on the west side. It was a gorgeous day.
Continue reading “Heron Now” →
To celebrate the arrival of April I was out birding today at Knoch Knolls Park in Naperville, Illinois, thinking about how another winter has passed with no sighting of my nemesis bird, the Snowy Owl. I had hoped to finally match this check on my brother’s bird list, closing the gap just a bit. Not many birds, really, just the occasional American Robin and Chipping Sparrow, but as I wandered my eye caught something in the few patches of snow left in the park.
Continue reading “Snow Kidding!” →
…or rather, Pelicans from Emiquon, the national wildlife refuge along the Illinois River near Havana, Illinois. I was in Springfield for most of the day last Tuesday, and on the way back north I stopped at Emiquon to see
a) if there were a lot of migrating ducks and geese, and
b) if it was underwater like all the fields around the area after the recent snow melts and rain.
It worked out! Also, my brother Brian drove down from Peoria and we spent the evening photographing the birds there, including among other species Canvasbacks (a new +1 duck for my bird list!), Buffleheads, Scaups, Pintails, Trumpeter and Mute Swans, hundreds and hundreds of high-flying Snow Geese, and an early Eastern Meadowlark. It was a nice evening, a rare break from the winter we’ve had. I most enjoyed taking pictures of the large numbers of American White Pelicans.
Continue reading “Peli-quons” →
So I went out into the farm country of Northern Illinois today to look for Snowy Owls. This is absolutely my nemesis bird, as I’ve never been successful in finding one (unlike by brother Brian, although I gather it’s actually his wife who’s good at finding them). A good measure of my success in seeing a Snowy Owl today is the subject of today’s post: Bald Eagles.
They’re cool, too, though. In the winter we are seeing more and more of these–in fact, I’ve read that Illinois has the second highest number of Bald Eagles after Alaska! Hard to believe? It’s the Mississippi River that draws them, and apparently other rivers such as the Illinois River and Fox River give the edge to Illinois over other states like Iowa or Missouri that share the mighty Mississippi.
Continue reading “Bald Eagles in Illinois” →
Well, I’ve been urged by my brother to release a post for Valentine’s Day as he has done. His post (link) has multiple gorgeous photographs of an Anna’s Hummingbird displaying the beautiful Valentine’s Day color of red roses. Mine is just a shot of an American Flamingo at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The color might be more in the carnation family. 🙂
Continue reading “Here ya’ go, a Flamingo” →
Outside Havana, Illinois, that is! There’s an area of nothingness there that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. Strange electrical activity emanating from a structure looking eerily like an electrical substation but which traps birds from another space and time, birds not seen anywhere else in these parts. Glowing birds. And blurry ones.
Continue reading “The Bermuda Triangle Outside Havana” →
On January 1 of this year (2019) we had a very unusual visitor show up at the Whalon Lake Forest Preserve near my house west of Chicago. I understand from a fellow birder that the woman who discovered it was too afraid to report it because no one would believe it, so another birder reported it. But she was right, and we were pleased to host a Black-legged Kittiwake for a few days!
Continue reading “Here, Kittiwake!” →
Shrikes are small but awe-inspiring birds of prey. Two species of shrike reside in the U.S., the Northern Shrike and the Loggerhead Shrike. The Northern Shrike summers in Northern Canada and Alaska and winters in the northern half of the states, while the Loggerhead Shrike lives year-round in the southern states and moves northward in the breeding season (I have photos of a Loggerhead near Chicago).
The Loggerhead Shrike pictured above displays the thicker black mask when compared to the Northern Shrike, one that generally rises over the eye and extends over the bill to form a single, connected mask. They really remind me of the Lone Ranger.
Their taste for birds, lizards and small mammals such as mice is complicated by the fact that they have the feet of perching birds (passerines) rather than talons of other birds of prey. To compensate, shrikes have evolved a method of killing their prey by biting their neck to induce paralysis and then shaking them to break their neck and impaling them on thorns, twigs or even barbed-wire! Yes, they can break the necks of mice by rolling their heads at high speeds. They will also leave prey impaled on these as a larder for future meals. They are affectionately known as “butcherbirds”.
In December of 2017 I was at Lakes Park in Fort Myers, Florida, and I saw a couple Loggerhead Shrikes. It all started out innocently enough as I started taking photos of one of them, but the situation quickly went south. Here’s a rough running commentary of my thoughts during that photo shoot!
Continue reading “Shrieks and Shrikes” →
A rookery is a colony of breeding birds. Often these are man-made, and these can look like the exposed superstructure of a huge sunken pirate ship, teeming with herons, cormorants and egrets. Others are natural collections of large nests at the top of tall trees, attracting the same types of birds. I like the natural rookeries much more, and on March 20, 2016, I took some photos of Great Blue Herons at a natural “heronry” in the Danada Forest Preserve in Wheaton, Illinois. There were about 12-15 nests at the time, every one in use.
Continue reading “A Great Blue Heron Rookery” →
I came across a family of two Sandhill Crane parents and two colts enjoying a beautiful day in June, 2015, at the Deer Grove East Forest Preserve in Palatine, Illinois, oblivious to picnickers and photographers alike.
Continue reading “Sandhill Cranes Frolicking in the Sunshine” →
On August 11, 2015, I stopped by the Paul Douglas Forest Preserve in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, after work. I heard what I found later to be a Virginia Rail calling very loudly in the reeds of the marsh, and with a lot of patience managed to photograph a female Virginia Rail and one of her four chicks.
Continue reading “A Virginia Rail Family” →