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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

From the Editor

article spread
by Laura Erickson
Photograph by Laura Erickson

Before I started birding in 1975, I read A Guide to Bird Watching by Joseph Hickey and tried to follow his recommendations. I kept a field notebook and counted the birds I saw each day starting with my first chickadee on March 2. As I gained experience, the data in my field notebooks grew more valuable scientifically. The notebooks are also a treasure trove of memories.

When we moved to Madison, Wisconsin, I learned the song of resident Baltimore Orioles. During the next spring migration, I heard orioles singing entirely different tunes until the end of May, when every oriole was singing the familiar song. By the next year I’d read that Baltimore Orioles match their song repertoires to those of their neighbors. The following spring I easily picked out local orioles from migrants by their songs.

Identifying birds is rewarding and fun, but going beyond identification to understanding bird lives makes birding even more satisfying. This issue of BirdScope focuses on birding for science. Sharing observations with others through citizen-science projects contributes to science and conservation and improves our birding skills and enhances our fun. Everyone benefits.

This issue of BirdScope will be my last as editor. I am migrating home to Minnesota, where I plan to spend more time recording bird songs, contributing my observations to eBird and my sounds to the Macaulay Library. For me, nothing beats a sound recording for eliciting a flood of birding memories. Photos capture a fraction of our visual surroundings as they existed for a fraction of a second. Sound recordings capture our entire auditory surroundings, including not just the bird we’re focused on but also myriad sounds of other birds, frogs, chipmunks, and the occasional mosquito or bumblebee. While stuck indoors during a January blizzard, nothing warms my spirit like listening to a recording of a June dawn chorus in northern Wisconsin, or a hummingbird feeding station in Costa Rica.

I’ve had a wonderful two-year adventure here at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, but it’s only a continuation of my treasured relationship with the Lab, which started in 1975 when I spent hours at the Michigan State University library listening to vinyl records featuring Lab recordings, and has continued through the years as I’ve devoured countless Lab publications and participated in Lab projects. My experiences perhaps reached their pinnacle in 2001 when I attended the Macaulay Library’s Sound Recording Workshop, one of the most enjoyable and rewarding weeks of my life. Even though I won’t be in Ithaca, I’ll continue to support the Lab and our shared mission, to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.

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