Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Be Like an Owl

This one falls in the category of a birding "life hack." I recently read an article about how owls have asymmetric ear placements that allow them to spatially locate sound in both horizontal and vertical planes. This got me to thinking ...

After hearing a bird call in the field, I often want to find it in the binoculars. I find that, though I can judge direction to some extent, I am clueless about elevation. I occurred to me that I might be able to alternate listening for the bird with my head upright and then with it cocked to the side and get the same effect as the owl.

Tonight, I tried it out as I was listening to a bird that I thought was 20 feet in front of me in the brush. I moved side to side and pinpointed the direction but no bird. I then tipped my head and discovered immediately that it was nearly overhead, not out in front of me. Combine the two "directions" and, poof, I had the bird spotted. The effect is less obvious as the bird gets further away but that example was pretty dramatic.

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