ABA Birding Editor Ted Floyd is at it again. The guy who introduced the world to bare naked birding has again served up some excellent advice for birders. This time Ted has described how his minimalist approach to birding keeps him from jumping on the photographic bandwagon but that doesn’t leave him out of loop when it comes to providing documentation for rare birds. His focus in this essay is to describe those situations in which an acoustic recording of a singing or calling bird was actually a much more likely source of documentation than a photograph would have been. Ted’s weapon of choice for recordings: the Olympus VN-8100PC, a digital voice recorder. Sleek, cheap, user friendly and excellent quality, this device has helped Ted prove that he found a Black-and-white Warbler on his way back from the kids’ bus stop, that an Orange-crowned Warbler was calling from the other side of an impenetrable tangle, and that an Eastern Meadowlark really did make a stop in Boulder County – the first ever proven to have done so.
Two Christmases ago, I asked Santa for something like the device that Ted uses. What I got instead was a pushpin mic for my iPod, (mine’s just an iPod, not a phone) something I’ve usually got in my pocket whether I’m birding or not. In my case, this was a good option: Rather than carry around another gadget, Santa figured out that a $12 mic and teaching me how to use one of the standard apps on my iPod would actually make more sense. (Santa’s pretty smart that way.) Of course it took me a while to figure out I could successfully use it in the field to record birds, but it seems to be working as my recent post on Purple Martins illustrates. The quality doesn’t appear to be as good as the examples Ted shares, but it seems serviceable. As with my photography skills, sometimes diagnostic is all I’m after.
So Ted’s right: let’s not limit ourselves to visual confirmation of rare birds or to just taking photographs of pretty birds. Sometimes in the dead of winter, it’s recordings of the sounds of a summer morning that warm from within. If, like me, you’re not willing to give up your camera or add another stand-alone gizmo to your utility belt, consider something like your phone or whatever else might be in your pocket anyway. If that thing has an earphone jack, then there’s a good possibility that a cheap plug-in microphone could get you on your way to the world of easy audio recording as well. Have fun!