Birder's Guide

NOV 2018

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 15 of 43

14 Smartphone Audio Recordings Birder's Guide to Gear | November 2018 itself), and play around with the strange interface of frequency ("pitch") and the perception of loudness. ■ Save the original soundfile! Getting proficient with Audacity, like diving deep into PhotoShop, takes some time. So does learning flight calls, navi- gating molts and plumages, and master- ing avian status and distribution (S&D). But with just a few basics under your belt (high-pass filter, amplify, don't cut and crop too much), you're in business. A Final Thought As I type this, after deadline and with other deadlines looming, I've got the of- fice window wide open. I haven't seen a bird all day. But I've heard a great many: collared-doves cooing and goldfinches twittering, the neighborhood Swainson's Hawks squealing and a Blue Jay screech- ing, a troupe of Bushtits and a lone Say's Phoebe, and more. Cool! A Solitary Sandpiper just flew over! My just-turned-50 ears aren't what they used to be ( hearing-loss), but, still, there are so many days like today. It's been a good day, a great day. I mean, Swainson's Hawks and a Say's Phoebe and a flyover Solitary Sandpiper. And, pardon the in- terruption, but a western chorus frog, Pseudacris triseriata, just started calling in the yard. I can't help myself. I want, I really need, to get up on the proverbial rooftop and shout aloud that this world of ours is a great symphony of birdsong. And in the age of smartphones and Audacity, of eBird and Xeno-Canto and blueberry ginger kombucha, it's emi- nently doable. I'm going to reach out to my friend, the famous field ornithologist, about the imbalance in her or his eBird portfolio: 10,000+ checklists, 1,000+ photos, 0 audio recordings. It's not that this per- son in some sense "owes" it to me or to the birding community. No, it's some- thing else—what Laura Erickson has called "The Evocative Power of Sound" (, the satisfac- tion and simple delight to be had from recording and sharing birdsong. on Waveform (dB), as it will give you an optical migraine. ■ The high-pass filter, along with eBird animated range maps and blueberry gin- ger kombucha, is one of the true mar- vels of modern living. ■ So is the Amplify effect, but go easy on it. If you have a lot of noise (of the tech- nical, acoustic sort) in your recording, the law of diminishing returns quickly sets in. ■ Resist the temptation to cut out too much ambient sound, don't "crop" too tight (by trimming too close to the song permutations thereof, but just a handful will get you well on your way to mak- ing useful and beautiful recordings. That said, I just have to ask: What would happen if you applied the Wahwah and Paulstretch audio effects to the Nyquist Prompt? Yes, you can get pretty fancy with Audacity, and, yes, I am capable of every manner of digression. Getting back on track, here are some things to know about Audacity: ■ The two interfaces you want are Waveform and Spectrogram. Don't click ■ The experience of hearing audio recordings is powerful. A Western Meadowlark—the same bird as in the photo below— seems to come to life when we play the recording ( Boulder County, Colorado; March 26, 2017. Recording by © Ted Floyd. ■ It was cloudy evening in early spring, cool with a few sprinkles of rain, and this Western Meadowlark livened the prairie landscape. Can you hear the bird's song? Answer: Oh yes you can! See the figure above. Boulder County, Colorado; March 26, 2017. Photo by © Ted Floyd. Continued from page 12

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