Skagit Audubon

Watching birds, protecting habitat, connecting with nature

From Your Editor - from Mary Sinker


Welcome back after our summer break! When we signed off, spring migration was ongoing and many of our summer visitors had arrived, selected mates, and set up housekeeping to raise their families.

Have you found it challenging to be able to identify our summer visitors because many of them are small, and often more heard than seen? Well, I have and this summer I was introduced to a new tool to help me sort out all of the sounds and songs I was hearing from the trees and bushes.


Known as “Merlin”, this free app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology was just what I needed to sort out the Western Wood Peewee from the Willow Flycatcher and so forth. I downloaded the app to my smartphone along with the regional playlist for this area and I was off and running – well, listening! Merlin is super simple to use and can be used for both photo ID and for sound ID. Simply open the app on your phone, select what you want to do, and Merlin does the rest.

While Merlin is listening for bird songs and calls, a real-time list of birds that it has identified will be displayed. The recordings are automatically saved to your phone, and you can select any bird identified within the recording to hear their songs, and calls to confirm (or not) that it was the bird you saw or heard. The example shown here is from the Merlin website.

Merlin isn’t infallible of course but it is another tool that can be used to identify birds that are difficult to see. With Merlin’s help I was able to successfully “bird by ear” and eventually more easily see several summer visitors that spent weeks here in the woods near our home or out at favorite birding spots.

I hope your summer has brought you new and exciting birding adventures. Fall migration is underway and who knows what unusual or exciting birds will stop by on their journey south – welcome back! To download Merlin or learn more about the app visit


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Skagit Audubon Society holds monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of each month except for the months of July and August. We meet at 7:00 pm at Padilla Bay Interpretive Center (Google map), 10441 Bayview-Edison Rd. Mount Vernon. Meetings are open to all.

The board of directors meets at the same location at 7:00 pm on the first Tuesday of each month, except for the months of July and August.

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