Sounds Good

Over the years I have flirted with recording singing birds. Usually it has been via an ipod, so really only on a casual basis, but I have always fancied doing a bit more although, what to do with them. My quality of recording is limited, and Xeno-Canto the premier bird recordings site, has more than enough clicks and coughs to entertain, so the recordings have been sitting in a computer file doing nothing until eBird allowed the additions of audio media to a checklist.

I think I have peaked on eBird (for now) with photographed species, 993 so far, it would have been more but all my old slides went in the recyc before the add media option became live. So I then added my paltry few recordings, I have more somewhere as I had one of those ‘Remembird’ things and used it for a while! After uploading I had a grand total of seven audio files added to eBird then I thought, what about some species I’d badly videoed (pocket camera stuck to the scope eyepiece jobs), perhaps there was a way to upload the singers. Well this was a can of worms.

It turned out that, between Sandra and I, we had a ton of things chipping, squawking and making very exotic sounds on the audio tracks of our trip video clips, great, but how to isolate them into wav., or mp3., files suitable for upload to eBird? Enter Audacity, a free piece of software that does the trick in a spectacular way. You set Audacity to record from the PC and then play the video. The sound converts into a file you can edit, and edit many times to isolate all the different calls and songs on there, very relevant in a Neotropical context. You can snip out coughs and cars, barking dogs and even idiots who repeatedly ask whether you are taking a video (that would be me!)

The result is that I now have over 50 audio files on eBird, attached to the relevant checklist. I also have about 65 tracks with stuff like ‘unknown call/song, Gamboa, Panama Dec-19-2012’ as the title awaiting our attention. Now, I have no problem ticking call only, because listing is only a game and not even a serious one like say Twister. If you can identify a call or song correctly it counts and I won’t be adding a sniffy ‘all seen only’ comment to my World list in Bubo (, great, simple and free listing site) to the 45 species I’ve only ever heard. It may be that I will get another couple from the unknown call/song files and here is another lesson. You don’t have to ID everything at the time. It is quite acceptable to make notes and recordings, even take bad photos and then work up an identification, it took me years to realise this but it does make sense.

For some time I have been thinking about what this birding year will be about, it was the CSI big year last year (see the tab at the top for a write-up). I have decided to up my recording status by trying to get something on our summer birds, when they get here (come on, get a move on). I may stick with the ipod as a recording tool or perhaps seek out something (cheap) a bit more dedicated. Having crap ears that can no longer hear higher frequencies means a lot of headphone work but it will be fun, I’ll report back at the end of the year how I do.

Some of you will know that I have started a Facebook page for Cape Sable Island wildlife, anyone can join but posted content is restricted to CSI birds/animals/plants/insects/fish etc. I created it so that people can learn about our diverse wildlife and also so that they can post pictures that might not see the light of day anywhere else. Historical photos are most welcome.

And now to the birding. Good some days have been had recently although fog is a regular visitor and the wind has been a right pig at times. In Pubnico the Prothonotary Warbler has been faithful to the Kelp larder, I even got a couple of shots of it actually sitting in a bush.

Ospreys are back, this one was over the house carrying nesting material. We get them quite frequently in summer, I must try filling one of the suet feeders with Herring, see if it works!

Shorebirds are increasing in number with The Hawk the place to be. In with the Black-bellied Plovers recently was this American Golden-Plover; a regular species here in the autumn but less common as a spring bird.

Can you tell which on it is?

There are plenty of Dunlin around too. We should be looking for the down-curved bill and white rump of a Curlew Sandpiper again. We had two, perhaps three last year and, once these birds are in the ‘system’ they often appear at the same site over multiple years.

Finally, just a few stats: My year list is currently 155 in Nova Scotia, 125 on Cape Sable Island and going along nicely. Bring on the tanagers!


One thought on “Sounds Good

  1. I use Audacity too. It also allows you to amplify sounds which many sound utilities do not support because it is something you would never want to do when working with music files.

    The top one.


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