The future of hi-tech birding arrived in a small FedEx package the other day. It was a delivery we’d been looking forward to for months, so we went right to work.
Within minutes, I slipped the sleek, wooden box out of its container and plugged it in on our porch, where it went right to work on its ambitious task: Recording all the birdsong, calls and chips from the yard and instantly suggesting which birds are behind every peep.
Not long ago, we wrote about the smartphone apps you can take on the birding trail if you need help identifying birds by ear. This new invention, called the Haikubox, is the mother of the birdsong ID tools. It’s designed to be set up at your home and detect every nearby bird around the clock, day in and day out.
It’s like an instant X-ray of your avian neighborhood – or at least it will be when the development and fine-tuning is done about a year from now.
We’re lucky enough to be among the 20 testing volunteers to test out the preliminary version of the Haikubox. We plan to follow its creation and let you know how it goes on its way to the retail market. It’s expected to cost somewhere under $500, although the price hasn’t been set.
The Haikubox is built in a foot-tall, white-oak casing that looks more like a piece of art than a scientific tool. Inside are the processor, a microphone and an antenna that connects to your home wireless system. That enables your box to hook into the enormous library cloud of bird songs that enables the rapid-fire identifications that makes this a wonder. Here’s our introductory post on the project from last year.
What’s most interesting, of course, is what the Haikubox is telling us about our own yard in real time. The findings are reaching our computer and smartphone in a steady stream, especially early and late in the day when birds are most active. We can watch the IDs pop up on the screen and listen to the actual recordings. It also adds spice to bird-watching at home because if there’s a bird the Haikubox hears that we want to see, we can grab our binoculars and go look for it.
The Haikubox is the creation of David Mann and Amy Donner, a husband-and-wife team with a small company called Loggerhead Instruments in Sarasota, Fla. They are working with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which has led the way on technology to identify birdsong and other sound experiments.
Future Flying Lessons posts will delve into the fascinating scientific anatomy of the Haikubox, the challenges of sorting birdsongs from the neighborhood cacophony and how the development is going.
For now, we just wanted to give you a glimpse of a future that’s just around the corner.