In the city I got the reputation of being able to identify anything nature-y or food-y. When encountering mystery trees, vegetables, or spices, my friends often came to me for help. They were often surprised when I didn’t know very many bird songs or birds. Now that I’m in Vermont and it’s spring, I’ve decided to fill in this gap!
There’s no shortage of practice material – when I walk out my front door at this time of year, I’m greeted with a chorus of birdsong. Going on bird walks with local experts can really help break the ice. Local Audubon Societies are great – ours came to our after school program with four adult volunteers and 12 sets of binoculars!! The kids loved learning to use binoculars and were excited to identify the birds they saw. I find it hard, however, to absorb much new information on bird walks. Each time I learn about one or two new birds, but often leave feeling like most of the information went in one ear and our the other.
As with most memorization projects, what I needed was time. First, I reviewed birdsongs of species I know are common around my house. There’s a list of mnemonics here and a huge directory of songs to listen to at “All About Birds.”
When I go for walks down our back dirt roads or hikes in the forest, I now listen carefully. As I walk, I try to translate what I hear: “Cherrio, cheery me, cheery me,” for example. When I arrive home, I try to identify one or two of the songs I remember (that was an American Robin!) using the lists of mnemonics or recorded birdsong directories online. Of course it helps if I get to see the bird. Slowly but surely I’m able to identify more and more songs in the outdoor chorus on my own. I’m excited to be adding this aural awareness to my natural lexicon!