Melinda and I have been working at the advanced skill of birding by ear. She’s better at it than I am. It seems that I have to relearn the difference between a Wilson’s warbler from a Yellow warbler call and I think these are supposed to be fairly straightforward.
One thing I’ve been doing is preparing for a bird trip when I know we’re going to be listening for birds is to listen to the calls of the common birds. I have found the iBird app and the other birding apps to be very helpful at teaching and verifying birdsong.
Warning: be careful not to listen to your phone app where the birds can hear, this is a bit like trolling on the internet. For more on the etiquette surrounding song playback check out this post on the Sibly Guide site: https://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/04/the-proper-use-of-playback-in-birding/
Even when we’re prepared for the birdsong in our target birding zone we can still be surprised. After all there’s no way that my brain will learn ALL of the bird songs/sounds.
One of the big surprises happened near Spanish Fork UT. It was a crazy sound that we heard and we could not figure out who was making it. Turns out it was the call of a Ring necked pheasant. It’s close to the call on the All About Birds page: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ring-necked_Pheasant/sounds as recorded in New York by Jay McGowan. Certainly was startling.
Another one that I wasn’t ready for, but Melinda was is the call of the American bittern. Then one day we were birding at Market Lake (near Roberts ID) in the spring and there it was, this crazy call that sounds like a plumbing problem. Check it out at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Bittern/sounds, the one from New York by Steven R. Pantle is the closest to our Idaho bird sound.
That’s another thing to remember. The sounds in the recordings are going to be close to what you hear in the wild, but unless you’re in the exact same geographical territory it may be quite different in tone.
Lastly one that I love to hear. The gargling sound of Sandhill cranes. Check out the range of sounds this bird can make: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Sandhill_Crane/sounds
It’s a whole new world this birding by ear. I find it to be a struggle but wow is it worth it. — Jenny