Monkey off my back

I have a love/hate relationship with March.


I have been staring at a screen like this just about every night since mid-October, and I’m going bug-eyed.  But now that fiscal year-end is approaching, all my contracts are due; once they’re submitted, I can take a deep breath and collapse into a big molten heap.

What exactly do I do? Well, the long version is that I transcribe digital songbird data collected in remote areas by recorders with microphones, for use in population monitoring studies by governments. The short version: I’m a desktop birder.

How does it work? I listen to the clips, and identify to species all birds singing or calling, along with abundance values, and enter the information into a spreadsheet. This data is then used to further our scientific knowledge of the natural world and our effects on it, aiding in management and conservation of wildlife and the environment. Pretty cool, eh? It’s a bit surreal, immersing yourself in the dawn songbird chorus when it’s a cold and dark winter’s night, but when you hear an owl hooting to it’s mate, or a mosquito buzzes by (but you know it won’t bite), or a wolf howls off in the distance, and the hermit thrushes are counter-singing in their ethereal flutey voices, I’d have to say I’m pretty lucky to have fallen into this line of work.

Soon the biologists will be off to collect more data, so for now I can take some time off, waiting until the next files will be shipped to me for another round of headphones and software and  enough birds to drive me crazy. Maybe until then, I can get outside and listen to some real live birds of the non-digital variety – imagine that!


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