You'll likely get more out of a CD/book combination
Marcus Peacock | Washington, DC United States | 04/14/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I decided to get serious about learning bird song for the Eastern US but had a hard time figuring out which CD to buy. What I found was no one CD does it all, they all have pros and cons. I ended up with 4 CDs -- and this DVD. Below is my take on them. In the end, while it took a bit of persistence, learning bird song has been an extremely rewarding experience, adding a new dimension to any walk.
I started with Feith's Bird Song Ear Training Guide: Who Cooks for Poor Sam Peabody? Learn to Recognize the Songs of Birds from the Midwest and Northeast States (1 CD). The big advantage of this CD is that it gives the song/call first, and then identifies it. So you can download the clips to an iPod, set it on random, and constantly test yourself. It covers 189 species, which is a lot. Finally, the narrator has a pleasant voice and often gives mnemonic suggestions (e.g., "Over here dear" for the Baltimore Oriole). This CD has two big disadvantages. First, many of the songs/calls are very short (many less than a few seconds). Second, there are very few songs/calls given for each bird (usually only one or two). In retrospect, they simply tried to cram too many birds onto one CD. These two defects greatly undercut the value of an otherwise good disk. Also, the birds are coupled so that if you download clips and try and randomize them you will always get the same two birds paired in the same order (the birds are ordered by alphabet). This makes it hard to learn the second birds based solely on the song of the bird - the Turkey always comes after the Towhee.
A friend gave me Elliott and Read's Common Birds and Their Songs (Book and Audio CD). In contrast to "Bird Song Ear Training Guide" this disk provides a variety of lengthy songs/calls for each bird. It pretty thoroughly covers 50 of the most common birds. It also comes with a glossy softcover book with great pictures and informative one page write-ups. I have a few problems with this disk. First, the bird is identified before each call, so it's hard to test yourself. Second, I'm sure Lang Elliott is a very nice man, but he doesn't have the most sonorous voice. Finally, the audio CD does not provide any mnemonics and there are only a few in the book.
Another friend gave me Elliott's Know Your Bird Sounds, Volume 1: Yard, Garden, and City Birds. This is similar to "Common Birds and Their Songs" but only covers 35 birds (as opposed to 50) although some are not included in "Common Birds." It also comes with a book with nice photographs but has less information on the birds and just focuses on describing their songs. The CD includes more information on the bird song than "Common Birds" (Elliott essentially reads the book) but has the same drawbacks; mainly, it identifies the bird before the song.
Having read that it greatly helps to simultaneously see and hear a bird singing its song, I purchased the product on this page: Feith's DVD "Birds, Birds, Birds: An Indoor Birdwatching Field Trip" This was a disappointment. In general it is the "Bird Song Ear Training Guide" CD (see above) matched up with still photographs and occasional video footage of the appropriate bird. It includes about a dozen more birds than the CD and can be arranged by "sound alikes" and set up to give one a quiz, but the drawbacks that undercut the CD - the brevity of the songs and lack of diversity of calls per bird - undercut the DVD. If you really need to see a picture of the birds while you hear them sing, buy one of Lang Elliott's CD/book combinations above.
Having made progress but still unsatisfied, I finally broke down and bought Birding by Ear: Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guides(R)). It is a nice combination of lots of birds (about 85) with a long and diverse set of song/calls for each. The birds are also categorized by the similarity of song, which I found a helpful learning device. It comes with a paper pamphlet giving a very short description of each bird and a nice list of mnemonics at the back. The CD gives a fair amount of information along with the songs and is easy to listen to. The biggest drawbacks are the birds are identified before the song (although there are a number of quizzes arranged by habitat which compensates somewhat for this) and the clips go on for so long, due to the narration and groupings, that you can't really use them to download on an iPod and test yourself. I guess nothing is perfect.
"Quick, three beers!"
slim | 10/13/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Perfect DVD for the bird-brain in your life! Saying "Quick, three beers" is one way they describe the sound of a bird-call in this continuous loop DVD. Lots of great videos, sounds and birds- all your bird-lover needs for those cold winter months when all the real birds have flown south... If you aren't a bird-lover, you may just want to get those three beers for yourself."