Carolina wren

This morning when I took the trash and recycling out to the garage, I heard a Carolina wren singing so loudly, I knew it had to be perched on the wooden fence along our driveway–and there it was, singing and flitting before dropping into our neighbors’ yard, out of sight.

These days, I do most of my birding by ear. Listening to birds is the ultimate form of multitasking, as you can keep an ear out while doing chores, walking the dog, or walking from house to car then from car to office. Any time you’re outside, you can keep an ear out for birds, and even if you can’t identify all the songs you hear, you can listen for anything different from the usual sonic backdrop. When you hear something unusual, stop and look around.

On this morning’s dog-walk, I heard the usual suburban suspects–blue jay, chickadee, titmouse, mourning dove, cardinal, house sparrow, house finch, song sparrow, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, and the aforementioned Carolina wren–all without the need to crane my neck or reach for binoculars. Birding by ear is a hands-free and completely immersive endeavor: you needn’t worry about looking in the wrong direction or having a bird sneak up on you since sound happens in all directions.

Many of the birds I see are ones I hear first, like a yellow-bellied sapsucker I saw earlier this year only because I looked up after hearing its distinctive squeal. It’s almost as if birds are trying to catch our attention.