Birds have often served as sentinels of environmental changes. Birds also have widespread public appeal, providing extensive opportunities to connect people to the natural world, to understand ecological interconnections and conservation challenges, and to become better stewards.
There is no doubt that birds, their sounds and the larger soundscapes of which they are a part, contribute to our sense of place. Who can imagine not hearing the iconic voices of Common Loon, White-throated Sparrow, or Pileated Woodpecker in Acadia? Or any of the other voices, 60 of 143 species that may potentially be extirpated from the park by 2050 due to climate change (Wu et al. 2018). Because birds are often heard before they are seen, bird sounds help us detect, enjoy, and monitor them. Our project is rooted at the intersection of the popular appeal of birds, and bird ecology research at Acadia National Park; it builds on the long tradition of citizen science in bird research.
Bird sound recordings, and the use of spectrograms to analyze them, have been used by scientists since the mid-20th century. Then and now, audio recordings of birds preserve important natural history records of a species. Importantly, recordings validate visual observations for bird surveys and population studies. (Larsen. 2016.) They are used to help us understand who, what, where and why birds sing, and more. With advances in recording technologies, decreases in equipment costs, and the ability of individuals to upload their own recordings into a scientific archive, such as Cornell’s Macaulay Library (ML), citizen scientists are increasingly participating. Researchers using ML data, routinely state in their papers that their analysis would not have been possible without the recordings made/archived by citizen scientists across the continent. And, in fact, it is a field in which even beginners can make important discoveries and contributions.
Because birds are often heard before they are seen, birds help us detect, enjoy, and monitor them.
Yet, for its rise in popularity, before 2017, there were only 58 bird sound recordings from Acadia National Park archived in the ML. Through the concerted efforts a few sound recordists contributing to the Schoodic Notes initiative since 2017, we have made a tenfold increase. Others too have been recording/archiving since 2017. The largest increase in recordings occurred since the COVID-19 pandemic (and is in keeping with the rest of the world; ML has reported an 80% increase in uploads). Many research and conservation projects, and the birds themselves, will benefit from focused efforts of more citizen scientists recording throughout Maine . It also stands to note, too, that many of the new recordists would benefit from easily achieved quality improvements with training, support, and access to better recording equipment. That is the heart of why we are offering a Bird Sound Recording workshop, and why we will loan professional grade recording equipment to workshop participants to record in Acadia.
Then and now, audio recordings of birds preserve important natural history records of a species.
Larsen, T.H. (ed.). 2016. Core Standardized Methods for Rapid Biological Field Assessment. Conservation International, Arlington, VA.
Wu JX, Wilsey CB, Taylor L, Schuurman GW (2018) Projected avifaunal responses to climate change across the U.S. National Park System. PLoS ONE 13(3): e0190557. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0190557