Saturday, June 29, 2013

birding by sound

I took my first ornithology class as an undergrad at UC Davis with Dan Anderson.  Back then, I was studying fisheries since my goal after graduating was to do sustainable aquaculture somewhere. I was required to take his ornithology class where I had to memorize all the species of California birds using "bird on a stick" avian specimens. Luckily, there was more to ornithology than looking at dead birds. I remember one particular class outing where we listened to several bird calls coming from a large shrub.  He named all the birds making the calls and, after a few minutes, we "flushed" the birds from the shrub.  Of course, we were all amazed at how he was able to identify all these birds by sound.  It may be that he was just fooling us but somehow, I don't think that was the case.  On a short trip to Indonesia, I was lucky enough to bird with Boas Emmanuel, Jakarta's premier bird expert.  What amazed me most about him is how his ears were always "perked up" to bird calls. Several times during outings, he heard birds and identified them before seeing it.  This talent is probably what separates great birders from ordinary bird admirers like myself.  This painting is of a sooty-headed bulbul, an Indonesian species, courtesy of Boas.  "Sooty-headed bulbul", watercolor on 9"x12" Lanaquarelle paper.    

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