If you are in a hospital waiting room or sitting at a bar or riding a bus or standing in a grocery store line . . . you’ve probably noticed PEOPLE STARING AT THEIR PHONES!!!
But one would think Birders when they are practicing their craft would be immune from this malady, and until mid-2021 this was true. It was then that the Merlin app added Bird Song ID.
Merlin, a free app from Cornell University’s eBird, was released in 2009 and has been downloaded over 12 million times. Over the years it has helped birders of all skill levels to identify birds. In 2021, a Song ID feature was added . . . suddenly birders were told which species were singing in the vicinity . . . often picking up songs outside the human hearing range.
Now, when birders are in the field . . . they are STARING AT THEIR PHONES!!!
Ingrid and I are guilty of STARING AT OUR PHONES while birding like everyone else. When our phone suddenly hears a Magnolia Warbler in a near by tree . . . we can spend 10 minutes trying to locate the bird up in the canopy.
Merlin is a pretty useful tool . . . EXCEPT . . . it often identifies birds incorrectly. On most outings it will list the birds its hearing with reasonable accuracy . . . but slip in a bird that is clearly not anywhere around. For instance, our flagpole flapping in the breeze is often called a “Ruff Grouse.” Most experienced birders know how to filter the nonsense IDs out.
The Red-eyed Vireo is an omnipresent summer bird that sings all summer long, all day long. I guarantee, if you live east of the Mississippi River you will recognize its song . . . and your brain simply filters it out.
The Philadelphia Vireo is a much less common relative of the Red-eyed Vireo, summering in Canada and just over the USA border. Unfortunately . . . Merlin can’t tell their songs apart. Every time we turn on Merlin . . . it will tell you it just heard a Philadelphia Vireo . . . WRONG . . . it’s a Red-eyed Vireo.
So this morning, Ingrid and I drove to Grafton Notch, in Northwestern Maine to find an actual Philadelphia Vireo.
When we arrived. . . we found a half dozen damn Red-eyes . . . before finally finding the Phillies.