Sound recording birdsong

General birdwatching discussion, help with bird identification, and all other things relating to wild birds and birding in NZ that don't fit in one of the other forums.
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Ken George
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Sound recording birdsong

Postby Ken George » Sun Apr 17, 2022 7:45 am

Are there any members of our birding community who have a special interest in recording and collecting bird vocalisations? I'd be keen to hear from others with the same interest, and hopefully establishing a group in New Zealand similar to the AWSRG (Australian Wildlife Sound Recording Group). With the emergence over the last 20 years of Xeno Canto and eBird, and especially in relation to Cornell's new Birds of the World database, contributing good sound recordings of our birds is a valuable area of citizen science activity. For instance, I'm working on building a database of the regional variations of tui calls, though I love listening to any birds. Sitting quietly in the bush listening to the dawn chorus in places such as the Eglington Valley is definitely my zen space.
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Richard_Jones
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Re: Sound recording birdsong

Postby Richard_Jones » Sun Apr 17, 2022 12:19 pm

Hi Ken,
My primary interest is in wildlife itself and then wildlife photography. However, I've also ventured into bird songs (which I love).
I've got some good korimako recordings (albeit not professional) but my best - and worst - recording is of a kokako on Tiritiri Matangi. It took me quite by surprise and I could only hurriedly record it on my iphone, without a special microphone. Despite rustling sounds to get closer (which I've been able to minimize via filtering), it was stunning prolonged song. I played it, along with a photo, at a Nature Photography Society NZ - it was a big hit.
So, I am interested in your project.
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Samsperdy
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Re: Sound recording birdsong

Postby Samsperdy » Sun Apr 17, 2022 4:16 pm

Hi,
I have been wanting to get into birdsong and recording bird calls for a bit now but don’t know what equipment to get for the job. I don’t want to spend too much money on the recording equipment though as I would like to just do it as a hobby.
I for sure would be willing to join your project.
Jim Kirker
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Re: Sound recording birdsong

Postby Jim Kirker » Sun Apr 17, 2022 7:59 pm

Samsperdy wrote:Hi,
I have been wanting to get into birdsong and recording bird calls for a bit now but don’t know what equipment to get for the job. I don’t want to spend too much money on the recording equipment though as I would like to just do it as a hobby.
I for sure would be willing to join your project.


I've been using an old Samsung cellphone with https://play.google.com/store/apps/deta ... n_NZ&gl=US
and get the odd excellent recording, most average or good. I like it because it is simple and you can crop and cut your recordings on the phone before downloading to ebird. It reminds me of trout fishing, you need to be in the right place and luck comes into it. Like with the trout, the wind and what's going on around you is critical - that's where the luck comes in. You also have to be patient and keep a good ear out. Really cool feeling when you land an excellent !
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Threeps
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Re: Sound recording birdsong

Postby Threeps » Mon Apr 18, 2022 11:41 am

I'm interested in recording birdsong. I've purchased a digital recorder and a boom microphone and begun making some recordings but got a bit lost along the way. I'd love to do more and share tips and insights with others in NZ. Sadly eBird does not allow for interactions between birders so there seems to be an opportunity for an alternative platform to engage.
Steve Purdon

No te whenua mo nga Kotimana ahau.
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Ken George
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Re: Sound recording birdsong

Postby Ken George » Tue Apr 19, 2022 10:07 am

Hi people, here's some info you may or may not find useful. In the context of birding toys and kit the money outlay on very good bird sound recording gear is relatively affordable. Anybody can put together a nice kit for under $2K. That would consist of a good digital recorder; Sony, Olympus, Zoom and Tascam are name brands, some good over-ear headphones, and a decent shotgun microphone with accessories (rubber mount pistol grip and a windshield, aka a 'dead cat'). I can recommend the NZ retailer Rubber Monkey, great online service. The most important component is really the shotgun microphone, without one of those it would be like going to do some wader photography with a 50mm camera lens. The recorder just stores the the sound file, and sometimes it's great to record ambient stereo with the onboard microphones. Two excellent free audio sound processing software downloads are Audacity and Ocenaudio. Learning to read and use spectrograms is important, there are a couple of good YouTube tutorials. As part of their ongoing seminars and bird education courses, Cornell are about to make available a ten part "How to record Birdsong" course. (starts April 21st 2022). Our neighbours across the Tasman have a small but active wildlife sound recording community, check out AWSRG online and look through all their resources. Annual subs to that group is about $70 NZD, but you can access a lot of their stuff for free. In addition to their online resource, they hold a group week-long get together every two years at a fabulous location in Australia, eg Kingfisher Park in North Queensland. Covid has knocked that on the head for the last couple of years, but I understand they will be resuming again this September. The AWSRG has about a hundred members (not all in Australia); I'm not sure how many would be interested in a similar group here in NZ, be good to get one going. Apparently even world-wide the bird sound recordist group is relatively small. NZ birdsong recordings appear regularly on Xeno-canto, I'm not sure how many are by locals and how many are by overseas birders visiting, probably most of them. Local recordists would be better placed to cover the different seasons and locations. Why is all this important? As mentioned earlier, the last 20 years has seen the emergence of platforms like Xeno-canto and eBird, and very recently the huge and work-in-progress Birds of the World platform from Cornell. Birds of the World takes the sound file component of the bird entries from our eBird contributions, from what I can tell, so the bigger the pool of material available to it (via the Macaulay library), the more accurate and complete the output. So in a real-world situation, if you're birding anywhere and need a quick and handy reference, and you have the Birds of the World app or Merlin app on your phone, you have access to good accurate information, including photos and sound files, literally right at your fingertips. How good is that?
Last edited by Ken George on Mon Apr 25, 2022 10:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Richard_Jones
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Re: Sound recording birdsong

Postby Richard_Jones » Sat Apr 23, 2022 10:00 am

Hi All.
Thanks Ken for (re-)stimulating our interest in recording bird songs. And thanks for your kit recommendations.
My kit is much more basic and certainly doesn't match a shotgun microphone and high-end digital recorder, but I have got some great recordings via it:
(1) iPhone.
(2) RODE VideoMic Me-L microphone (NZ$129, Rockshop, May 2021), which fits on directly to the iPhone via its Lightning connector. The mic also comes with a detachable windshield (aka Ken's "dead cat").
(3) WavePad Sound Editor (from NCH Software [Australia] - Free demo or Au$92 for licensed version). This App can be downloaded onto both iPhone (for recording and playback) and a Mac (for editing, filtering, etc., and playback). I've been most impressed with this software. Recordings can be made between iPhone and Mac via, as well as saved on, the cloud, which is rather nice.
Cheers,
Richard
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Ken George
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Re: Sound recording birdsong

Postby Ken George » Tue Apr 26, 2022 7:09 am

The AWSRG has confirmed that their 5 day sound recordist's workshop is early September this year at the Birdlife Australia reserve at the Gluepot in South Australia. Great location for ticks like the Mallefowl and Major Mitchells Cockatoo, but unfortunately the location is a bit of a tough one to get to; recommended 4WD access for the last part of the trip and bush camping for a week. At least you wouldn't have the problem of traffic noise!! Richard, my recording kit is strictly entry level too, a 10 year old Sony M10 recorder and a newer Zoom H5. I bought my Sennheiser shotgun mic second hand on eBay. The H5, shockmount and cables I got at Rubber Monkey. My whole kit would have been about 16 hundred dollars. The photographers among us would find that just beer money. If you wanted to get really serious, there is equipment like a MixPre3 multi-channel recorder at $1800 and a parabola mic set-up for upwards of 4 grand. I've just started doing the "How to Record Birdsound" online course (Cornell Lab Bird Academy) and it's really good, I would recommend it. Recording gear-wise, the best bit of kit you'll ever own is the one you've got with you when you need it. I learned that the hard way when in January of 2014, while going for a little walk through the bush up on the road over to Totaranui (Golden Bay),on the way over the hill for a swim, an Eastern Koel started calling 50 or 60 metres away from us in the dense bush. This was pre-smartphone days and I had nothing else to record it on with me, we could only stand and listen. Would have been an NZ first for me!! I've never gone into the bush without some sort of recorder since.
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Richard_Jones
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Re: Sound recording birdsong

Postby Richard_Jones » Tue Apr 26, 2022 12:38 pm

Hi Ken.
Thanks for extra info on kit and courses.
I loved your comment that "Recording gear-wise, the best bit of kit you'll ever own is the one you've got with you when you need it". I can really relate to this with my totally unexpected recording of an amazing kokako song (and photo) on Tiritiri Matangi in May last year - only on my iPhone but at least I had that!
I had not even heard of the Eastern Koel. He/she really was off course but a great (and frustrating) serendipity finding in the Abel Tasman NP.
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Ken George
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Re: Sound recording birdsong

Postby Ken George » Thu Apr 28, 2022 7:17 am

I'd not tried connecting a shotgun mic to a smartphone before so I went out yesterday and tried it. I'd have to say it worked surprisingly well. My phone is an android so I only have the default MPEG-4 sound file format, are iPhone users able to change that to a WAV file type? The Macauley Library (eBird) prefers WAV files. If you're just using your recordings for personal reference then the compressed MPEG-4 files are fine. Personally I can't hear the difference but according to Macauley the WAV format is equivalent to a photo RAW file while the MPEG-4 or MP3 are equivalent to a compressed JPEG. So the same as with your photos, the capture file differences are all about the post-production.

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