Most birds have calls and songs, so birding by ear can be challenging. During the birding we did for various citizen science projects I recognized the Common Yellow-throat warbler by its witchity, witchity, witchity, witch call. One spring a fellow birder, noted for his ability to identify birds by sound, called a Common Yellow-throat for the list. I asked if he heard the call, and he replied no, I hear the song. We waited and the bird sang again. I realized then that birding by ear involved a lot more than I realized.
On a recent hike I heard a loud bird song, repeated many times. I admit, I did not recognize it at all. Karl pointed in the direction he heard it, and I saw a flash of yellow in a tree. I approached carefully, and stopped, watching the tree. A few minutes later I heard the song again, then saw some movement. I spend at least ten minutes by that tree, listening and enjoying. Finally the bird showed enough of itself from behind a leaf for identification. I caught a photo of it looking at me, but when he sang he lifted his head behind the leaf, which blocked my view. All I managed to get is the open beak as he threw his head back to sing.
Lately we find ourselves doing more “slow birding”. When we birded for people or groups collecting research data, we followed their protocol and timing. We really enjoyed that time, and would like to do it again. But, we also really enjoy being able to stop and focus our time and attention (and camera) on one single bird.