We are lucky at Sonoma that we have a wealth of bird life. And we’re doing everything we can to continue that, from maintaining habitat to planting sunflowers and other bird-friendly flowers. But apparently nothing we’ve done or will do can top, in bird-friendliness, building a barn. The birds love it. They flock to it. They’ve built community around it. In fact, most mornings we wake up to birds trying to get in. From the barn swallows who inexplicably start tapping and flapping at the loft bedroom window to the woodpecker who is convinced he’ll eventually drill through the tin roof. (Note: one small woodpecker can sound like a jackhammer at 6AM on tin.)
I’ve been fumbling through my Audubon Society Field Guide to the Birds of California trying to identify all our birds, but it’s hard to match a bird that flitters by to a static small picture. So I bought the most amazing iPhone Application ever. It’s called iBird Explorer. Not only does it let you search for birds by color, size, habitat, flight pattern and similiarity (is it gull-like, eagle-like or wren-like?) but once it finds your bird, it pulls up several pictures as well as the artist’s rendering that you find in most bird books. That’s in addition to a wealth of information on feeding, habitat, behavior, etc.
But by far the best feature: it has a function that allows you to hear the actual call of that bird. So
loudly, so accurately that the real birds will actually follow you. Believe me, I tried it. Once I identified the little red birds that fly around our barn as Rufous-Crowned Sparrows, I started playing their song. Yup, that was the clincher. Same song. I played it out under the barn eaves and they started swarming me. I wasn’t even wearing red.
I’d like to say I had a Cinderella Moment here. You know, in the cartoon where the birds land on her finger and sing with her. Instead, I did something pretty mean. I dialed up the Rufous-Crowned Sparrow’s deadly enemy, the Red Tailed Hawk, and played his screech. Cleared out our sparrows for yards around. I felt pretty bad about that, so I dialed back the Rufous-Crowned Sparrows song and played that for a few minutes while walking around the barn. Succeeded in doing nothing but completely scaring the dogs. Seems they will face anything but a looming iPhone playing the call of the Rufous-Crowned Sparrow. I have to admit, I took some pleasure in chasing them around the barn with the iPhone. Call it Bird Avoidance Therapy. Or just call it revenge for all the mornings they wake me up at 6AM wanting to go on a walk. Okay, I’m coming clean: it was just plain fun.
Luckily, my prank didn’t permanently scare the sparrows. In fact, they are now building nests under the eaves. And on closer examination, those nest are including a hefty amount of the dog hair I’ve emptied into the field from the vacuum cleaner.
So, you see, in Nature, everything comes full circle.
the iPhone is an amazing gadget! Good story … now if you could MacGuyver rig up a SPARE iPhone to play the Red Tail Hawk sounds at 6:00 AM to guarantee continued slumber … things would be great … and you’d be reaching new heights in geekdom 🙂
If only Verizon sold iPhones. Until they do, I will just have to read about the greats apps with envy.
I really enjoy your writing! I’m going to have to go exploring through your archives.
Up until now, I haven’t really seen a need for an iPhone or iTouch. This just might be the reason. I like to try to identify birds as we go camping. Now if that app could identify the bird for you based on a recording you make, that really would be something.
That’s the most ingenious use of an iphone I’ve ever heard of. Love it! I love whatbird.com, too. It saved me from great embarrassment one day, just before I was about to call the local news station to report a terradactyl in my driveway. Turns out it was just a great blue heron.
It’s good to see your blogging again! Love the story and laughed at your chasing the sparrows away! You do have a mishevious streak in you!
Now THAT is a good use of iphone.