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When I started birding a 100 years ago, the descriptions of the songs in 
field guides
often did not make sense to me so went without actually learning the 
songs for several yrs.
That changed when I started using the Peterson series "Birding by Ear" 
(Eastern/Central) and
"More Birding by Ear" (Eastern/Central) by Richard (Dick) Walton
The author goes through the more common birds one would encounter in the 
east/central U.S.
by grouping birds by habitat or sound-a-likes. He gives tips and 
mnemonics to help you learn
each song.  There's also quizzes at the end to see if you learned them.
To keep from getting overwhelmed by listening to the entire series at 
one sitting, I took each section and learned those first, then moved to 
the next section.
Listened to them when running errands, en route to go birding or just 
doing mundane work.
Drove my husband nuts when I fired up the CDs in the car but it forced 
him to learn the songs
too. ;-)

Yes, this series is probably considered old-fashioned, pedestrian and 
has no sexy, stimulating visualizations by 2013 standards but I think 
still quite informative. The series initially came out in CD format and 
still available (amazon, etc) but sure there are versions one can 
download from the internets.

As I said, could never really latch on to the described sounds of the 
bird songs in field guides
i.e. White-crowned Sparrow
Unnamed field guide - feeee odi zeeeee zaaaaa zooo  (HUH?)
Unnamed cell phone App - One long, clear introductory note followed by 
variable
buzzes and trills. (OK.......?)
BUT when I found a list of mnemonics for 100s of birds that I could 
further help me with the songs.
The example of White-crowned Sparrow ("more, more, more cheezies 
please") and then
listened to the bird (on CD) or encountered the bird out in the field it 
finally "clicked".
List of Mnemonics of birds compiled by Tomm Lorenzin
http://www.1000plus.com/BirdSong/birdsngb.html

Believe memory gurus are suggesting using creative imagery to remember 
such things
as people's names, addresses, etc which I found helped me remember 
birdsongs as well.
For the Black-and-white Warbler it helped me to imagine a zebra pushing 
a wheelbarrow
with a squeaky wheel, or for the Acadian flycatcher, I imagined a flying 
pizza with green olives
on it.  Silly?......absolutely, but made me remember the song.

Whatever method one uses to learn the songs, one needs to get out in the 
field to
APPLY what you learned. Finding a bird by song THEN seeing the bird 
singing the song
is key.

Have fun learning the songs. Will open up your birding experiences.

Good FALL birding (enough with the heat)
Charlene Malone
St. Louis co.

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