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Old Tuesday 30th August 2016, 12:35   #1
Fat Paul Scholes
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Nocturnal bird recording

The run of nocturnal Ortolan records in the SW has prompted me to give nocturnal recording a try - I left my recorder, attached to a directional mic running last night and intend to analyse the recording later this evening.

As this is brand new to me, and many others are asking questions about it over on the thread about Ortolans, I thought it would be good to set up a separate thread for discussion of methods, findings etc.
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Old Tuesday 30th August 2016, 12:39   #2
Fat Paul Scholes
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My kit:

I'm using a Roland R5 recorder attached to a Rode directional microphone. I'll be using Audacity to visually scan through a spectogram of my recording, to try and isolate calls.

My location - I'm based on the outskirts of Aberdeen, next to the harbour - a surprisingly quiet place all things considered. Not sure how much 'ambient sound I'll record, but I suspect some of it could be classified as 'interesting'! It's certainly a decent place for flyover birds in the day and I've had whimbrels, whoopers, pinkfeet etc going over during the night before.

Will report back with any findings, thoughts, or adaptations...
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Old Tuesday 30th August 2016, 13:47   #3
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Good one Mark - shall be following this thread with interest.

Just gonna get my equipment out.
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Old Tuesday 30th August 2016, 14:32   #4
Fat Paul Scholes
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Some potentially useful stuff here:

http://www.birdforum.net/showpost.ph...7&postcount=22
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Old Tuesday 30th August 2016, 14:40   #5
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Old Tuesday 30th August 2016, 20:32   #6
Fat Paul Scholes
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Right - the analysis.

In short, I think it was a pretty decent first attempt. I recorded for about 7.5 hours, and in among the barking dogs, police sirens and neighbours listening to Whitney Houston, I had a few interesting birds fly over.

A small group of sandwich terns flew over at about midnight, a single dunlin went over at approx 01:00, and best of all, a couple of greenshanks went over at about 01:30. Apologies about the lack of precision re the times, I forgot to note when I pressed record...

All of these are new for the house list, to add a bit of context.

While the set up I used recorded well enough for the birds to be identified - (Roland R5, Rode mic, hung outside an open window in an old handbag (not one of mine) arranged so that the mic pointed upwards and away from the house) - the spectograms left a little to be desired. If you needed them to confirm an ID you'd be in trouble - but it's a reasoanble bit of kit for field recording so I suspect that the lack of quality is a result of birds not passing directly through the 'cone' of the directional mic, or perhaps passing very high. I did get a crystal clear recording of what I suspect was a duck spp going over, which only gave itself away due to the whistle of its wings. Anything that passes low enough and directly overhead should be recorded very clearly.

So, in short, it's not perfect for recording things overhead at night, but it's certainly a starting point.

The analysis took an hour or so but I suspect I'll get quicker than that as I learn what needs to be listened to and what doesnt. The file was just over 1 GB of data, which Audacity just about coped with, and I simply scrolled through the recording visually checking for anomalies. One drawback here is that from about 4 am onwards the local gulls and robins became very active, and showed up on the spectogram, making harder to visually pick up other stuff. There's every chance I missed things in amongst that racket as I don't have time to listen to 1.5 hours of herring gulls and robins. I stopped recording at about half 5 am, when I got up to go out and do some proper birding...

I'll do the same tonight - no real adaptations to the set up, but it's a bit windier tonight so it'll be interesting to see how the mic and recorder cope with that.
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Old Tuesday 30th August 2016, 20:43   #7
Fat Paul Scholes
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And here are the spectograms:

1: Dunlin
2: Sandwich terns
3: Greenshanks

Not very useful, as you can see. I'm sure I could have improved them slightly by having a tinker with Audacity but you can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear...
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Old Wednesday 31st August 2016, 05:32   #8
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Mark - what settings etc did you use to record ? - have the Roland 05 too. And how many GB your card ?

Will give it an hour today, try and do the jiggery pokery stuff this afternoon, then leave on over night and see how many Y B Buntings are passing over . . . . .

Our vocal local Curlew and Greylags could get a bit tiresome . . . . .
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Old Wednesday 31st August 2016, 07:14   #9
Fat Paul Scholes
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I didn't alter the settings from what I'd normally have it on for standard field use, which means it's probably set to a fairly high resolution, and I could probably reduce the size of my sound files by dropping that a bit. I can't remember what the settings are exactly, but you should definitely make sure you're recording in MP3 rather than WAV, as an MP3 file is going to be a lot smaller. Not sure what size the card is, but I recorded 1.07 GB the other night and hadn't run out of space.

The only issue with file size for me is that it made Audacity a bit clunky when I had 1 GB open in it. I'm going to try to archive all of the identifiable stuff I get but I'm not going to keep every recording so the other nights 1 GB was reduced down to just over 1 minute of useable stuff in the end.
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Old Wednesday 31st August 2016, 16:43   #10
Fat Paul Scholes
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A windier night last night, which made reviewing the recording slightly less comfortable. Unfortunately, (or fortunately...) my trusty recorder decided it would stop recording after about two and a half hours. Not sure why it did that, there was charge in the battery and plenty of space left on the memory card...

To be honest the wind was not a massive problem - and was exacerbated by my rather Heath Robinson handbag set up, allowing the mic to swing about a bit and occasionally tap against the window.

Still, it was not a complete failure. At c. 00:10 a common tern (or perhaps 2 common terns) flew over, giving lots of calls and allowing me to make some decent spectograms.
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Old Wednesday 31st August 2016, 19:02   #11
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Looking forwards to how this develops. I have enough trouble finding the time to deal with my in field recordings, let alone a nocturnal session.
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Old Thursday 1st September 2016, 04:10   #12
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Still struggling away getting the basics sorted - Jan thought it would be a good idea trying a battery in the directional mic . . . . and have a problem with wind up here . . . . shall get there soon.

This yahoo group was suggested on the Ortolan thread

groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/vismig/info

and I thought this was very appropriate Mark ( until Jane joined the party !! )

www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEy6MGu3bIA

Off to see what we got last night now.
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Old Thursday 1st September 2016, 06:07   #13
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A busy session last night, but it was mainly the locals - a midnight crow, and the usual gulls, robins and blackbirds as the morning progressed.

The only bird of note was another common tern that went over at 03:16.

It might just be the two of us here Paul - but there's plenty of this sort of thing going on on Twitter at the moment.

Hope you've got your power and emissions sorted - looking forward to seeing what you got.
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Old Thursday 1st September 2016, 06:31   #14
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Living In the same area as Mark,I find this thread very Interesting.
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Old Thursday 1st September 2016, 06:58   #15
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Hi all, Has anybody got any recommendations for a starter set up?

Thanks in advance.

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Old Thursday 1st September 2016, 07:31   #16
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Ad1 - I have a Roland R5 recorder c.150 and a Hama microphone c.50. Would be great if people try out other sets and see what results are obtained with lower priced set ups.

Last night - looks like I pressed all the right buttons, but not neccessarily in the right order . . . . will try again tonight.

Just got a recording of a Greenfinch chirping away, so that will be sufficient for me to play around with on Audacity today.

Helpful link here

http://sasquatchbioacoustic.blogspot...to-review.html

Mark any links to useful Twitter conversations ??
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Old Thursday 1st September 2016, 07:39   #17
Fat Paul Scholes
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Hi all, Has anybody got any recommendations for a starter set up?

Thanks in advance.

Adam
Yes and no - I'm not an expert really! It depends how much you're willing to spend I guess. I'm very happy with my current kit (R 05, with Rode NTG2) as it works very well in the field as well as when left out overnight. However, there will be plenty of other options - this part of birdforum might be a useful place to start looking at alternatives, or asking questions of people who know more than I do...

One thing I can recommend is Audacity for your analyses. It's free, quite easy to use, and there are plenty of online tutorials and videos to help you get the best out of it. Again, there are alternatives - I've used Raven Lite in the past to generate spectograms, and no doubt others will have different preferences.
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Old Thursday 1st September 2016, 07:58   #18
Fat Paul Scholes
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Mark any links to useful Twitter conversations ??
Not really I'm afraid Paul - there's plenty of enthusiasm for the idea, but nothing structured that you might call 'helpful'. It's good to see what others are getting though.

I've signed up to the Yahoo group, which I hope will be more use.
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Old Thursday 1st September 2016, 09:18   #19
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I'm off to France tomorrow evening for a week - I should hopefully get to do a couple of nights recording in a relatively quiet, rural location. It'll be interesting to see how this effects the visual scanning of the spectogram - I suspect (or at least hope...) it'll male it easier to pick out calls, against a 'cleaner' background. I guess it might be a little more challenging in terms of identifying things, too.
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Old Saturday 3rd September 2016, 01:42   #20
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This yahoo group was suggested on the Ortolan thread

groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/vismig/info
Problem is finding the relevant info there amongst thousands of posts (including some from Nick at Portland) yahoogroup search is also slow and tedious at best of times, anyway I dug out one summary by Dave https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/...messages/13893

Early on there was input from the US, the oldbird setup, lots of info in their website. Also this link was posted: http://www.wired.com/2009/03/birdmonitors/

In terms of results many are mentioned on the vismig group under keywords "nocturnal" or "listening station", also on Dave's blog.
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Old Sunday 11th September 2016, 11:06   #21
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I had a go at this last night, though seemingly without recording any notable birds.

My kit:
Olympus LS11
Sennheiser ME66 mounted on a tripod.

I did the recording from my bedroom with the window open. I was worried that the recording would be drowned out by the sound of me snoring but reassuringly this didn't seem to happen. Despite living just across the street from Mark I'm probably not quite as well positioned for recording as both sides of my flat are quite noisy, with the street on one side and Aberdeen harbour on the other. I recorded 9 hours 21 mins in all as an MP3. The recording was fairly good quality but it was a bit tricky for my computer to handle the size of file.

Reading the sound file on Audacity is probably the key skill. It's tricky where I am because there's always significant background noise, though this seemed to drop off a bit after midnight. Some sounds are quite easy to pick out. A thorough look through easily revealed several barking dogs, a couple of car alarms and a drunk bloke coming home from the pub. Sharp sounds are easy to spot e.g. the beating of wings from a Feral Pigeon and the long call from a Herring Gull. Softer sounds from passerines are very easy to miss. The ticking of a Robin is almost invisible and the song is only noticeable when very close. The last 45 minutes of the recording (from around 6am) include quite good numbers of Meadow Pipits going over (a strong passage this morning), as well as several Goldfinches and a Grey Wagtail. I only picked these up by listening to the recording and not from the visual display though. It might be easier if I convert the recording to a sonogram, though doing that for the whole recording is probably more than my computer can manage.
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Old Wednesday 14th September 2016, 18:42   #22
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Well, I never got round to doing this in France, primarily because of wine.

So, back to recording the night time sounds of Torry. To be more accurate though, last night it was back to recording the night time sounds of my spare bedroom, as there was a problem with the external microphone that was pointing out of the window.

Hopefully I can sort it out for tonights session. There are still plenty of waders on the move and I'm expecting pink-footed geese any day now.

Also, potentially some SM3 or SM4 recordings might feature here soon - fingers crossed.
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Old Thursday 15th September 2016, 18:07   #23
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A much more successful session last night. Firstly, I managed to record the stuff that was going on outside rather than the stuff that was going on inside. This was probably a major reason why I managed to record a nice selection of birds.

These were, in no order, a distant common tern (that's three nights out of four for this species) just after 5 in the morning, a robin at 2:45 (a single tic note) a single grey wagtail call 2 minutes before it, and then my two favourites of the evening - the unmistakable tsee tsee tsee of a goldcrest at 2:40, and a single golden plover at 3:40.

Spectograms attached for the last two. I'll let you work out which is which...

The first pinkfeet were recorded at Loch of Strathbeg today, so I guess these should feature soon.
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Old Thursday 15th September 2016, 19:50   #24
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Well, I never got round to doing this in France, primarily because of wine.

So, back to recording the night time sounds of Torry. To be more accurate though, last night it was back to recording the night time sounds of my spare bedroom, as there was a problem with the external microphone that was pointing out of the window.
You must have had something. Flock wallpaper? Or a set of those iconic ducks perhaps ... ?
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Old Saturday 17th September 2016, 10:17   #25
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Right on cue - a flock of pink-footed geese went over last night at about 00:50. Wouldn't like to put too precise a number on it but it could have been 30 or 40 birds at least. The only other bird I recorded in about 2 hours was a single song thrush. Quite a few grounded this morning at nearby girdle ness, which tallies nicely.

The reason I only managed 2 hours worth of recording was that the batteries ran out on my R-05. The lesson here is that even if the battery icon says full (or very nearly full, as it did for me last night) it's worth putting a fresh pair of batteries in for every recording session. I'm using rechargable 'energizer' AA batteries that can easily cope with 6 or 7 hour session of recording when fully charged.

Spectograms of pink-footed goose flock and single song thrush note...
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