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Bluetooth Speakers For Playing Calls

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Old Monday 23rd March 2020, 10:19   #1
xmesox
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Bluetooth Speakers For Playing Calls

Birding here in South Africa, within certain terrains like the Karoo's arid nature, finding skulking birds often relies heavily on playback calls (in moderation, and with due respect to the environment of course). I've been looking for something small, portable but still good enough quality to get some responses across an area where there are perhaps boundaries preventing me from getting near.

I came across this: https://www.outeraudio.com/portable-bluetooth-speakers/

Which seems to have quite a lot of good options, does anyone have experience with any of these listed that they could recommend?
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Old Monday 23rd March 2020, 11:24   #2
Andrew Whitehouse
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I suspect a lot of those are too big to be easy to use in the field. I use a JBL Clip, which I think is quite a popular choice:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/JBL-Bluetoo.../dp/B07B9NMQTP
It doesn't have amazing sound quality but is good enough for most purposes and is much better than playing through your phone speakers. It's small, light, waterproof, has decent battery life, is fairly cheap and has a carabiner built in. The latter is handy for carrying and for clipping to branches etc.
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Old Monday 23rd March 2020, 11:34   #3
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In my limited experience of going out with bird guides who used playback, JBL clip seems to be the default choice.

Re. sound quality - most bluetooth speakers are going to be optimised to maximise perceived sound quality for musical playback. This often involves having speakers firing in different directions in an attempt to simulate the wider soundstage you get with a pair of decent hi-fi speakers. I suspect this might be precisely what you don't want when birding, where you want your target to be able to home in on the source. So a little speaker like the JBL might actually be better for this purpose.
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Old Monday 23rd March 2020, 11:51   #4
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And it really doesn’t have to be sophisticated or massively loud. Technique is far more sensible and productive bearing in mind most birds respond at sensitive times.

Firstly, you dont want the birds to displace too much. You don’t want to play continually - that just upsets or agitates them. Have a plan. In owl prospecting here the ONF use 500m gaps between play points. They play Pygmy Owl in one direction and then tengmalms on the way back ie later.

Play for 2 minutes then listen for 10 then move 500m etc.

I found a pattern with a suspected wallcreeper territory - I would play the call. Get no response. Move on. More often than not I would find the bird on the way back c. 20 mins later without further playback. The inference for me was the bird clocked the sound then came investigating but cautiously rather than an aggressive intruder reaction.

Some birds react to other calls rather than there own.

The key is to not just blast away with sound but to plan and have a strategy....
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Old Monday 23rd March 2020, 15:11   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rosbifs View Post
And it really doesn’t have to be sophisticated or massively loud. Technique is far more sensible and productive bearing in mind most birds respond at sensitive times.

Firstly, you dont want the birds to displace too much. You don’t want to play continually - that just upsets or agitates them. Have a plan. In owl prospecting here the ONF use 500m gaps between play points. They play Pygmy Owl in one direction and then tengmalms on the way back ie later.

Play for 2 minutes then listen for 10 then move 500m etc.

I found a pattern with a suspected wallcreeper territory - I would play the call. Get no response. Move on. More often than not I would find the bird on the way back c. 20 mins later without further playback. The inference for me was the bird clocked the sound then came investigating but cautiously rather than an aggressive intruder reaction.

Some birds react to other calls rather than there own.

The key is to not just blast away with sound but to plan and have a strategy....
This sounds reasonable in theory, but in practise response to playback often seems quite random. I know people who blast away and other people who play recordings that are barely audible, and both techniques seem to work, or not work, without any obvious pattern. I've had plenty of instances of getting no response one day, and strong response the next. Or vice versa.

The crudest technique I have witnessed was by a local guide on the Kinabatangan River in Borneo. We literally motored along in a boat with him blasting out recordings at 11 over the sound of the outboard. This is one of the more popular world birding sites, and the target birds along this stretch of river must have tapes played almost daily in season. I was scoffing right up to the point this technique brought in a ground Cuckoo, and at night both Bay Owl and Large Frogmouth.

Generally, though, the best way to ensure successful playback is to find a bird that hasn't had a tape played at it before!
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Old Monday 23rd March 2020, 16:33   #6
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Constant playback to me is unethical. Irrespective of time of year and breeding cycle.

I’m not getting on a high horse but various studies suggest that artificial interference - roads, walkers, birdwatchers etc cause stress to the bird and have effects on breeding etc.
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Old Monday 23rd March 2020, 16:56   #7
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I use the JBL Clip 2 and love it. Previously used a cheapo one from Amazon and frequently had issues with it connecting reliably to my phone. The JBL one has been flawless.
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Old Monday 23rd March 2020, 17:10   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xmesox View Post
Birding here in South Africa, within certain terrains like the Karoo's arid nature, finding skulking birds often relies heavily on playback calls (in moderation, and with due respect to the environment of course). I've been looking for something small, portable but still good enough quality to get some responses across an area where there are perhaps boundaries preventing me from getting near.

I came across this: https://www.outeraudio.com/portable-bluetooth-speakers/

Which seems to have quite a lot of good options, does anyone have experience with any of these listed that they could recommend?
from that link, the JBL flip is actually a great choice if you use playback.
Because with playback, you need something a bit louder as first recordings are often of quite far away birds.

The UE boom is more or less the same (loud).

The bose soundlink mini has really good quality and is sturdy, but it's a bit less handy.

Most others will probably be fine, too.

I use the JBL clip like most. If that isn't loud enough, you should go closer to the bird or just leave it. Too much volume is really not my cup of tea of enjoying birding.
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Old Monday 23rd March 2020, 18:33   #9
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I have Scotsche Boombottle, but use it only when a bird requires backing off from the call source. Otherwise smartphone is sufficiently loud.

I could say much about playback. Basically it requires some understanding of bird response, not mechanically playing more so the more bird will come. Very few species respond in such an automatic way.

People generally play too much and miss the bird when it comes. One obvious thing is not looking high, not looking for the silent bird and not looking behind you. Many species react by overflying the sound source. Birds can approach from behind you as easily as from the front. I had a birding group taping a certain thrush standing in a line in front of the clearing. I was the only guy who looked back and pointed the quite interested thrush watching them from behind.

Another thing is playing too much. Many birds are furious when they hear the song once, or even better, once and slightly muffled, but if there is a sound in a loop, they just listen from the distance and fly away.

Another thing is -as rosbifs had with the Wallcreeper - that many species with large territories can take 10-15 minutes to come and investigate. People in such a situation simply leave before the bird comes. One does not need to play more, simply wait more.
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Old Tuesday 24th March 2020, 05:22   #10
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Wise words jurek

I think the fear is that if the bird doesn’t immediately pop up it hasn’t heard you!
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Old Tuesday 31st March 2020, 05:34   #11
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Originally Posted by rosbifs View Post
Constant playback to me is unethical. Irrespective of time of year and breeding cycle.

I’m not getting on a high horse but various studies suggest that artificial interference - roads, walkers, birdwatchers etc cause stress to the bird and have effects on breeding etc.
Agree.
I have occasionally used playback, but try to steer clear of it most of the time
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Old Tuesday 31st March 2020, 16:55   #12
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For clarity: playback for me is recording an individual and playing back that sound.

Playing tape is playing a pre-recorded song or call.

Playback is much more effective while succesfully playing tape requires a lot more knowledge about what call can trigger a bird (depending on how the bird calls, the subspecies, time of year, male or female, type of call or song or eg drumming or calling in the case of woodpeckers).
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Old Tuesday 31st March 2020, 19:33   #13
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Originally Posted by rosbifs View Post
I think the fear is that if the bird doesn’t immediately pop up it hasn’t heard you!
More common is that it heard you, but realized it is not quite right sound and ignored it.

You can check strength of the sound yourself by walking away from it. If you can hear it, the bird can - at least as well as you.
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