For you college football fans, you know this past weekend was the battle of many instate rivals. I went to a sports bar with a friend to cheer on our beloved dawgs. As in most sports bars, there are several different games on at the same time. As each team made a play, a cacophony of cheers would erupt when their team scored. You could identify which team they were cheering for by the calls they made. It reminded me of the variety of calls we hear in nature.
As a naturalist, when an animal makes a call, visitors question me “is it a bird? Frog? Bigfoot?” I try to find ways to help them make a connection to that sound so they will remember it the next time they hear it. I start with some of the easiest calls. As in football, some cheers are easy to recognize which team the fans are cheering for when they make their call. For example, if you hear “C-L-E-M-S-Oooooo-N!” you know they are Clemson fans. Some animals also say their names like the Eastern Phoebe and a spring peeper. When visitors have learned those, I teach them to listen to calls and write down something that will help them to remember that call. They may hear the “peter, peter, peter” of a Tufted Titmouse or a “baaaaaaah” of narrowmouth toad. This can be an important reference resource that can be used in addition to field guides or recordings of calls.
When visitors to the nature center learn these calls, I can encourage them to take part in citizen science projects like Frogwatch, Christmas Bird Counts or eBird. This information can help scientists gather important data to monitor populations of species, range, introduction of invasive species, and phenology all by the calls they are hearing.
Listening to the calls of the wild is a fun and interesting way to learn what lives around you and participate in important scientific research. These skills can be helpful identifying the natural wildlife or the crazy sports fan near you! Gooooo Dawgs! Woof Woof Woof!