April 30, 2013

Larkwire - new tool for learning birdsong

I was lucky enough to receive an educator's copy of a great new app called Larkwire. Designed by cognitive psychologist, Phil Mitchell and bird watchers Mark Johnston and Michael O'Brien this app is teaching bird song recognition in a smart and accessible way. Developed with an eye to learning theory Larkwire is more like memory match meets the Dating Game then any kind of dry sound library of bird song. This app has two modes: the Field Game and the Gallery Game. Both allow you to listen to a song and try and identify the species of bird by photo. While the Field Game plays a song and then slowly reveals the singer, the Gallery Game gives you four bachelors and then repeatedly plays each song of the four species making you match the song to one of the four singers. If you select the correct species you score a point, select the wrong species and you loose a point. This form of repetition (being the basis of learning)  allows the listener to gain a deep knowledge of each species' song over time. Besides this seamless learning style the program also groups birds into similar sound categories (eg: "Warblers - Clear Whistles" or "Sparrow-Like Musical and Buzzy"). I find that grouping like sounds to be the best to approach when learning bird song. It allows the beginner birder to piece together field observations. 

This App is available for smart phones, tablets and PCs through Itunes. Larkwire has the Master Birder set for $45 which contains over 500 species of land and water birds from both the east and west region of the country all the way down to a beginner set for $3.95. I'd recommend the "Birder Pro Land Birds" for your region (east or west) at $16.95 this will get you started with back yard birds and keep you busy for years as you develop an ear for the subtle calls of warblers, flycatchers, and vireos. 

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