Thursday, March 06, 2014

Bullfinches and Sound Recordings

So I finally decided to get some sound recording equipment, have been thinking about getting some for a few years now but finally found a decent set up for sensible money. Looked into Parabolic reflectors which work out at horrendously expensive! Probably best part of £1,500 new and not a lot of second hand options!

Settled for a Sennheiser MKE-300 shotgun mic that I got off eBay for £70 and a Olympus LS-3 recorder for £120 off Amazon.

So although my mic hadn't come in by the time I set off to Upton Warren this morning I had a play around with trying to record various birds. Limited by the reach without the mic and the wind, I focused on trying to record the Bullfinches that were visiting the feeding station at the Moors.

Managed a decent recording of a male near the hide

The first track is what came off the recorder and the second one is what it sounded like after I'd played with it in Audacity. Following this article its amazing how easily (admittedly not at first but keep trying and re-reading the article!) background noise can be removed leaving you with the calls that you want!

From this recording I then used Raven Lite to produce this sonogram  

(Raven Lite and Audacity are both free downloads from links above!)

The Bullfinch calls are the dark thick lines towards the bottom (2 Redwing calls are the down slurred line above them).

After reading this blog post it seems that you can seperate our British P.p.pileata from the European P.p.europea on call. Not massively obvious when listening to the recordings but look at the sonogram and you can see the birds from Upton today are a straight line but the europea birds from Norfolk show a slight dip in this line.

Exactly why I invested in this sound recording gear, and will probably be the topic of plenty more blog posts to come!

Avocets have returned and slowly increasing almost daily with 16 birds on site now. 13 pairs fledged 30+ youngsters last year, will they better that this year?

Hope that wasn't too boring a blogpost, going to try and record some local Crossbills tomorrow, so no doubt another sonoographically related blog post to follow if I am successful!

Any tips on sound recording etc gratefully received!


  1. You make sound recording appear so easy, I'm guessing it was much trickier than you are letting on. Excellent recording of a bullfinch by the way, and wonderful photos, they always seem just that little too far away when I have my camera out on my local patch.

  2. It's not that complicated, struggled a bit with wind and distant birds, but this should be less of a problem with the external mic, easy to get close to Bullfinches at Upton from the hide!

  3. Anonymous11:37 PM

    Hey Tim,

    I've recently been trying to get into sound recording myself and looking into affordable external microphones for a small recorder similar to the one you use. I just wondered how you are getting on with the sennheiser mke-300. Would you recommend it? Something like that seems like a good option for someone on a budget.

    All the best,