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A speaker for calling birds is one of a guide's most important pieces of equipment. In some cases, it's even more important than a binocular!

We put huge demands on our speakers, doing things with them that few if any other users do. Speakers that look and sound nice often don't last long when wielded by a birding guide!

After lots of searching, I settled about 10 years ago on the Creative TravelSound 200 speaker, which was recommended to me by fellow guide Nick Athanas.


Here's what's good about it:

Great battery life. Uses four AA batteries, rechargeables in my case. These can easily be swapped if they're running low in the field, unlike speakers with a built-in battery. Strangely, there is a US version that uses AAA batteries, and is inferior. So I order them from the UK, to get the better European version. 

Loud. You don't want to go around blasting birds with too much volume. But sometimes you need decent volume to use a poor recording. And having full bass is a big advantage when calling birds with deep voices like large owls. 

Rugged. These things last for years of heavy use. Virtually indestructible, though I have managed to destruct one. Believe me, it's a miracle it lasted as long as it did. Rained on dozens of times. Sprayed on by multiple oceans. Dropped hundreds of times. Scoured with the dust of scores of African safaris. 

3.5mm Audio Jack. This one will be controversial. Most folks opt for Bluetooth these days. But I find that speakers played via Bluetooth are often quieter, and that Bluetooth uses a lot of battery on your playback device. Audio cables do wear out quickly, and you don't want to be caught in the field without a working cable. My simple solution: always bring 2-3 backup cables. They're cheap and light. 

Cheap! No one except me wants these anymore. You can easily spend $50 on a halfway decent Bluetooth speaker these days, whereas these go for $10-$20 on eBay. Unless this post is read by so many people that demand rockets and they are suddenly $100 :p. 

Works perfectly with two other pieces of my gear. These will be subjects of a future post ;). 

What are the downsides? 

Not small or light. Though most decent Bluetooth speakers aren't either.

Getting hard to find. 

No Bluetooth capability. Sometimes this is quite useful for putting a speaker on a branch or log and calling in a bird to close range. For that purpose I bring a small supplemental speaker. 

POSTSCRIPT: I have to admit... it did feel strange to head down the hill from my house for a photo shoot with my trusty CT200! But my two-year-old son found it a delightful mini expedition, and returned home with a handful of exceptionally interesting rocks and a good throwing stick! So it was a great success overall. 

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Glamour Shot. Every speaker dreams of being the star of a photo shoot...

This bush is a Madagascar Trumpetvine, an endemic to the "8th Continent"

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Powered by four AA batteries. Also note the 3.5mm (standard) audio jack.

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Slightly battered after years of constant use, but still works perfectly! 

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Here's to you Mr. Creative TravelSound 200

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