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Monday, April 26, 2010


My Tacoma backyard provides pesticide-free habitat for many different songbirds, and sometimes I've wished I could listen to them anytime, anywhere. Now I can. Thanks to the Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology and their Macaulay Library, you can buy a newly digitized collection of 310 songs and calls, representing 57 species of warblers, for only $14.95. If you want to hear birds, but you're nowhere near a tree, just try an MP3. If you download the collection to a device that can show images, you'll even enjoy a photo of each bird.

The Macaulay Library is home to the world's most comprehensive archive of wildlife sounds, and by visiting their website you can even hear samples from this compilation. It was nearly three decades ago that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Borrow Laboratory of Bioacoustics, and Ontario Nature, collaborated on this project. They released "Songs of the Warblers" as an LP in 1985. Now new technology demands an updated version.

"We received numerous requests for this digital release," said the Macaulay Library audio curator, Grey Budney. These MP3 files include not only the sounds of 57 different species of warblers, but also variations of songs and calls, along with a PDF of the original booklet that came with the LP, telling where and when each sound was recorded.

"Knowing the songs of warblers really enhances people's ability to find and identify dozens of stunning warblers species," said Budney. In addition to this collection, Cornell's "All About Birds" website offers bird lovers a treasure trove of delights, including audio, video, ways of participating in their projects, web cams, fun activities for children, and more. In May of 2009, I wrote a blog post about it, which you can read here.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we share our world with several species of warblers, two of which are shown in these photos, both courtesy of Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology and taken by participants in the Great Backyard Bird Counts. The top one is an orange-crowned warbler, photo by Richard Lee. The lower one is a Townsend's warbler photographed by "Craig" in Lake Forest Park, Washington.

Consider buying "Songs of the Warblers" and getting to know some of these little feathered neighbors. They are the best kind; the only noise they make is one of the loveliest in nature, and they'll eat the insects in your garden too. Please just remember to protect them from chemicals and cats, because none of us would want to live in a world without the songs of birds.

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