Bird call spectrograms

To: 'David Adams' <>, 'Birding-Aus Aus' <>
Subject: Bird call spectrograms
From: Peter Shute <>
Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2013 12:21:17 +1100
David Adams wrote:

> I finally had a chance to start looking at the earbirding 
> site that Peter links to and just wanted to say it's 
> fascinating. I've already confirmed that I don't have a great 
> natural ear, but that's not a shock. It looks like it will 
> take some time to understand spectrograms but even after a 
> few minutes with the examples, it's easy to see how much this 
> approach has to offer. Verbal transcriptions of calls have 
> never helped me (ever) - and those of us with imperfect ears 
> are likely to hear songs wrong. (There are three notes not 
> two? It's rising and *then* falling, not the other way
> around?) WIth the spectrogram, you can "see" the sound as it 
> plays, making it a lot easier to hear it right. It's a bit 
> eerie and exciting if you've been hearing the song 
> incorrectly and then start hearing the same recording 
> differently. A pleasure denied to those of you with great 
> ears. My sympathies ;-)

I'm glad it's helped you, David. I've just been trawling through my archives to 
see where I first heard about that site (, and it was 
here on this list when mentioned by Alan McBride in August 2010. It was that 
thread that finally made me get around to getting some recording gear.

> Since the other day, I also saw a new app announced that's 
> taking an interesting approach to bird sounds. Instead of 
> trying to be a full field guide with plates, etc. it's an app 
> with nothing but sounds. So, sounds but in a usable 
> arrangement for people with the right kind of device. Some of 
> you may be familiar with As far as I know, 
> they're the most comprehensive commercial vendor of bird 
> sounds on CD. CDs are an increasingly inconvenient format so 
> Birdsounds seem to be moving towards downloads and now apps. 
> There's a free "lite" version of the Costa Rica app 
> (presumably the first in a series) that lets you see the 
> features and try it out with a handful of sounds. They've got 
> recordings with recoding information and black-and-white 
> spectrograms. I'm hoping that they move forward with this 
> approach as it would really fill in a gap for those locations 
> (most of the world) where there are paper field guides but no 
> electronic field guides.

I installed that app, but can't see any spectrograms in it, only wave forms. 
Are they only on the website?

Peter Shute

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