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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bird Song Testing

Looking for a little bit better method of learning my bird songs I started looking for a quiz/test interface that would do it for me. Basically something that will allow playing of the call and then let me come up with the name and check the answer. I didn't really find anything like this as most of birding is designed as a field guide approach to paper, digital, etc. So you look up a species and it gives you the details you need.

What I want though is a quiz of a similar group of birds and to not know what I'm getting and in what order. Then to be able to test my knowledge and learn as I go. To do this I had to come up with something on my own and I decided to try and repurpose what I already had available to me.

MacaulayLibrary.org - Provides me the bird calls. I had to look deeper into tracks I wanted and then find the direct, no frills, link to the call track. Once I found that in the code for their autoplay frame as an MP3 link I was able to reference it directly without carrying along the bird name and related text.

Google Sheets - Basically Google's version of a Spreadsheet provides an online cloud solution for spreadsheet. I developed a way to mask the bird call link in a 6 character random number. In that same field I also put a note that is only visible when you ask for it to be shown.

Now when I browse to my Google sheet of this quiz from say my iPad, I see a list of 6 digit numbers. I click on one and a player opens to play the track. I have to click play button since mobile device browsers restrict autoplay. Once I'm done with the track I then go back to the Google sheet and click the note to reveal the identity.

The quiz works pretty well for my test group, which was all of the Flycatcher family that I might run into when in the Dakotas and Minnesota. I also have the structure built to quiz out all major groups of birds like Wood Warblers, Sparrows, etc... I just need to go get the valid MP3 links. Maybe at some point I'll open the quiz up to the world to use. The other feature of the quiz is that when anything changes on the screen the random numbers regenerate. This allows then the sortting of the column on the sheet which then reorders the list of calls. This effectively makes sure the quiz is never in the same order so you can't use that as a crutch. Not bad for something hacked together using tools/apps already available on the web.

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