Interesting Gadgets Found At BirdWatch America Trade Show

Imagine it’s May, and you’re birding one of your favorite spots. The songs of neotropical migrants fill the air, and suddenly you hear an unfamiliar voice. It’s vaguely familiar, but you can’t identify it. You listen intently, but the bird either moves on or simply goes silent. This happens frequently and always frustrates birders.

Now imagine that attached between the barrels of your binoculars is a small digital audio recorder. Push a button, and the mystery sound plays again. Repeat it several times. If it begins to sound familiar, push a few more buttons to access a library of bird songs for comparison. And all the while you’re still scanning the thicket hoping the bird will appear.

It almost sounds too good to be true, but such a device highlighted the BirdWatch America trade show in Atlanta last weekend. Each year I hope to discover a few great new products that can enhance my enjoyment of birds and nature. This year RememBird gets my grand prize.

Weighing in at less than two ounces and powered by a single AAA battery, RememBird attaches between the barrels of roof prism binoculars (those with two straight barrels, not the more traditional offset barrel type) on Velcro strips.

A microphone on the far side of the device picks up ambient bird sounds with remarkable fidelity. A second mic facing the user’s mouth can be used as a digital recorder. Again with simply a push of a button, the user can whisper field notes into the mic without ever taking his eyes off a bird being observed.

RememBird has been available and used in Europe for more than a year and is now available here. Ask for it at your favorite wild bird store or nature center or visit. The suggested retail price is $249; the North American audio field guide card retails for $50. Audio field guides for other parts of the world are also available. In addition to the sound library on these audio cards, there’s also enough memory to record hours of field notes.

With just a little practice, RememBird can be operated with your thumbs while using the binoculars. It was designed by birders for birders, so it’s surprising easy to master. And if you use porro prism binoculars (those with offset barrels), you can attach the device to a lanyard. It loses its ease of use, but still beats a pen and notebook.

My second place award goes to Aspects, Inc. for its new window hummingbird feeder, The Jewel Box. It will be in stores by spring. The Jewel Box holds eight ounces of nectar and attaches directly to the window pane with two suction cups and a bracket. The frame that holds the reservoir doubles as an ant moat — fill it with water to create a barrier ants cannot cross. Bees and wasps can be discouraged with optional Nectar Guards. A red, hinged lid covers the reservoir, has three raised flower ports, and is easy to fill and clean. The perch is elevated so the entire bird can be seen from inside the window.

Finally, look for products under the brand name “Schwegler.” It’s a European company that has been making homes and habitats for an amazing variety of creatures for more than 50 years. Nesting structures are made from a long-lasting wood-concrete material. Nest boxes for cavity-nesting birds will come as no surprise, but Schwegler also makes bat houses, an amphibian rescue fence, and nesting structures for bumble bees, hornets, lacewings, solitary bees, and a variety of other garden insects.

My favorite Schwegler product just might be the “wildlife paving stone.” It provides easy viewing of the critters found under large flat rocks. The stone rests on a transparent acrylic panel that sets into a galvanized metal frame. Lift the stone to observe small snakes, beetles, ants, and other insects and invertebrates without disturbing the creatures and their passageways.

Every manufacturer and retailer I talked to at this year’s, BirdWatch America trade show agreed on one thing — business is booming. With such great new products on the market, and I’ve only scratched the surface, it’s easy to understand why 2007 was a banner year for the business of wildlife watching.

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Send questions and comments to Dr. Scott Shalaway, RD 5, Cameron, WV 26033 or via email my web site, http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com.