BCR 166: Nathan Pieplow, Peterson Bird Sounds of Western NA

Nathan Pieplow is the author of the Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds-both the eastern volume, published in 2017, and now the new western volume, which arrived on April 2, 2019, both published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  Publishing. Nathan is one of the authors of the Colorado Birding Trail and a former editor of the journal Colorado Birds. He teaches writing and rhetoric at the University of Colorado.

Show Notes: 

    • You live in Boulder, Colorado and teach writing and rhetoric at the University of Colorado. How does this resonate with your secret life as an ear birder?
    •  recount one story. You went to Rancho La Noria, Nayarit, Mexico in search of a rare and mysterious owl.
    • It took you 14 years, you started in 2003, to create the eastern version of Field Guide to Birds and you started the western version before the eastern was published, what motivated you to accomplish this besides the fact that identifying a bird by their calls is arguably one of the most difficult skills to acquire?
    • You acknowledge that learning bird song was not easy for you. You essentially had to reverse engineer bird songs in order to deconstruct the variables so that they could be understood.
    • Crucial to identifying bird sounds are five key aspects.
    • How can spectrograms be used by the average birder, to lead to specific identification?
    • So musical training or memorization is not needed to identify bird calls, you have in the book a “Sound Index”, a sort of key that gets the sound you heard quickly to a short list of likely birds. How does this work?
    • You have a vast audio component to this book that is available on the web
    • How can an individual record a bird sound and get a spectrogram of that sound?
  • What is the next great frontier in bird sounds, is it possibly a new region or some great new technology?

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  1. De Welch Knudson on April 11, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Incredibly amazing work, Nathan! CONGRATULATIONS!!

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