Tag Archives: birding

Bird Sound Wizardry

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C. Clarke

The wizards at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have cast some potent spells with the latest update to their free Merlin Bird ID app.

I’ve had it on my iPhone for ages (it’s also available for Android). But I got used to the iBird app (http://ibird.com) and I normally open it for help with bird identification – so Merlin’s been sitting around idle. It wasn’t until last week that I heard about the new sound ID feature they added in June.

Sound ID records bird songs around you, analyzes them, and suggests IDs for what’s singing. You can compare the recording to other songs and calls for confirmation. It’s also a great way to learn bird calls. Hearing some, and then having the app tell you what they are in real time is great re-enforcement and helps you remember what you’ve heard. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

I updated the app and tried it out yesterday on a trip over to MINWR. I simply held it out, watched the waveforms record and the results as they came up magically on my screen. Here’s a screenshot:

I used it several times and it found Black-necked Stilts, Red-winged Blackbirds, Least Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, Eastern Kingbirds, Ospreys, and Mourning Doves. Most of them before I ever saw the birds. When the Eastern Kingbird ID popped up, I started looking for them and spotted this one perched briefly on a distant branch:

Eastern Kingbird Eastern Kingbird

Since it told me Stilts and Yellowlegs were around, I could keep an eye out for them too.

Black-necked Stilt Black-necked Stilt

Greater Yellowlegs Greater Yellowlegs

I was surprised by how sensitive the recordings are. It heard most all the calls that I did, and it seems accurate, at least in this short test.

There are 458 birds in the Sound ID list and more are promised. Cornell Labs has done some fine work with this. I think it’ll be very helpful to me in the future. If you’re at all interested in birds or birding, it belongs on your phone too! Did I mention that it’s free?

Header image: A pair of bunnies I also photographed yesterday. No, Merlin didn’t pull them out of a hat. That would’ve been very advanced technology! Full image at https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51363803209/in/dateposted-public/

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Covid cases in Florida are still at an all time high. Be careful out there and please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, photograph (and ID) some birds!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Two Merritt Island Moments

I got up early Thursday morning and checked the weather.  The maps (both Radar and IR clouds) were clear. This isn’t a strong sign for a good sunrise, but I was itching to photograph something and I was already packed, so I went on over to MINWR to check activity there. My first stop was East Gator Creek Road – one of my favorite sunrise locations.  The sky was mostly clear about 45 minutes before dawn and with plenty of stars out, it was beautiful.

The stars above
The stars above: Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, before dawn.

The bugs were bad and it was hot and humid too but I stayed for over an hour and enjoyed watching the sky change over time.  I only saw two other people:  Someone in a pickup truck looking for a spot to fish and a jogger.  Neither slowed down – I hope they appreciated the sky too.  In spite of the earlier weather map, clouds developed on the horizon and with no wind, the reflections were lovely.

Clouds and reflections at dawn
Clouds and reflections at dawn: Along on Gator Creek Road

After Gator Creek, I headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive but found it closed due to heavy rain.  I didn’t think to check this web page listing closures before I went.

Since I couldn’t explore Black Point, I stopped briefly at Bio Lab Road, Scrub Ridge Trail, and Haulover canal.  The Haulover canal bridge was still closed, although it was supposed to re-open on 9/13.  I watched two Manatees near the Bairs Cove Boat Ramp for a few minutes.  They seem to like this place – I think I’ve seen them every time I’ve been by.

eBird has a handy new Hotspot Explorer site that shows birding hotspots all over the world.  It lists species seen and how many were reported at each spot by month.  Here’s the specific page for MINWR. September is normally the slowest month and I didn’t see anything to contradict this when I was there.  Activity should ramp up beginning in October.

So … a pleasant trip.  I came back with two captured moments.  I wouldn’t have seen them if I hadn’t gone, and I couldn’t have shared them either.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!  And share them!

©2013, Ed Rosack.  All rights reserved