Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Summerland Key, Late Fall

Early November I was back in the Florida Keys on field work, kayaking around the mangroves of Summerland Key.

I've uploaded a trip report here:


Highlights included my first Würdemann's Heron, lots of herons and egrets including Reddish Egret, Tricolored Heron and Little Blue Heron; raptors including Broad-winged Hawk and Short-tailed Hawk; and migrant passerines such as Worm-eating Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Northern Parula, Indigo Bunting, and Painted Bunting.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Serpentine Sea Ravens


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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Catharus Thrush Songs

Some of the most beautiful woodland sounds from the northern states of the US and Canada come from the Catharus genus of thrushes. Back in midsummer I made some recordings of three species in Maine. Bicknell's Thrush (Catharus bicknelli) was the one that got away, being too distant for a decent recording. The term ethereal probably best describes the overall quality of their sound and even with a decent microphone its difficult to capture the sound in quite the same way my ears heard them. Sometimes its best just to get out and hear bird song in a natural context to fully appreciate it. The excitement I felt on first hearing these three species was just like when I hear my first Blackbird of the year in late winter.

Woodland at Brownfield Bog/Major Gregory Sanborn WMA

Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
Brownfield Bog, Maine, USA 43° 58' 06.0" N 70° 52' 48.6" W 19 June 2014 
Song composed of strophes (shorter than Swainson's) of steady flute-like elements with slight wavering endings; each strophe starting at different frequencies. Singing at dusk from mixed, dense maple/oak/spruce forest.

Veery  Catharus fuscescens
Brownfield Bog, Maine, USA  43° 58' 06.0" N  70° 52' 48.6" W  30 June 2014
Song composed of nasal or 'metallic' sounding fluting which rolls and decreases in frequency, c1.5 metres up in the understory of mixed deciduous woodland bordering wetlands.

Spruce forest north of Nesowadnehunk, Baxter State Park

Swainson's Thrush  Catharus ustulatus
Baxter State Park, Maine, USA  46° 00' 37.4" N  69° 03' 46.0" W  25 June 2014
Song composed of strophes (longer than Hermit) of low flute-like elements spiralling into higher frequency whistles. Singing from old-growth spruce forest.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Serpentine Grebes

Urban Great Crested Grebes (Podiceps cristatus) in London, photographed in natural lighting conditions. These individuals survive mostly on European perch (Perca fluviatilis) but wintering Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) have quickly learned to kleptoparasitise them. 


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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Duckweed Herons


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Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday, August 08, 2014

Kindrogan, Perthshire

I've uploaded a trip report from my annual field course trip to Kindrogan in Perthshire. This year the Green Woodpeckers remained, with likely a second pair nearby, and Goshawk was observed again. Other highlights included Goosander, Golden Eagle, Woodcock, Tree Pipit, Dipper, Redstart, Ring Ouzel, Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Common Crossbill.


Curlew  Numenius arquata
Glen BrerachanPerthshireScotland  56° 44' 40.5" N  03° 38' 25.5" W  12 June 2012

Bubbling song uttered during display flight over heather moorland, with two birds from 20 secs.

Tree Pipit  Anthus trivialis
Kindrogan Field CentrePerthshireScotland  56° 44' 45.8" N  03° 32' 49.7" W  11 June 2014

Perched song composed of a series of slow trills, the main phrase gradually decreasing in frequency. Flight song during parachuting display composed of a more complicated series of slow and rapid trills and more musical slurred elements delivered in discrete phrases. Note the distinctive down-slurred element from 8.1 to 5.7 kHz between 77.1 and 77.9 secs. Singing from a regenerating clear-fell area of Sitka Spruce in Kindrogan Hill.

Goosander  Mergus merganser
Glen BrerachanPerthshireScotland  56° 45' 21.5" N  03° 36' 32.9" W  12 June 2014 

Calls from a female in flight, circling potential breeding area.

Wood Warbler  Phylloscopus sibilatrix
KindroganPerthshireScotland  56° 45' 08.3" N  03° 33' 56.7" W  11 June 2014 

Two song types: more common trill (84% of songs in this bird), and less common tew-tew-tew (16%). Common song composed of distinctive accelerating trill, starting with hesitant elements (countable by ear), gradually decreasing in frequency to a rapid finish (uncountable to the ear). Second song type composed of musical, downslurred elements (at 28 secs in this recording). Singing from tree-fall area in a spruce plantation bordering sycamore/beech trees.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Loon Song

Last month I was in the state of Maine, birding the rich forests and sound recording wood-warblers, thrushes, and loons. Depending on which side of the pond you're on, the Common Loon or Great Northern Diver (Gavia immer) has vocalisations often described as haunting, evocative, even eerie. Its always been one of my favourite sounds in nature though until now I had never had the opportunity to hear it in the wild. On this trip I heard them calling from my tent at night and I can certainly attest to the previous adjectives! 

Kidney Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine, USA 45° 53' 34.8" N 69° 02' 52.5" W 26 June 2014 
Wail from a single bird [File name: commonloonLS112810e] 

Getting a nice recording was difficult because from the lake shores I encountered a nocturnal chorus from American Bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus) which by comparison to the beautiful vocals of the loon, is just horrible to my ears. Below is the best I could get with a pair duetting with wails then tremelos.

Wails from single Common Loon, Webb Lake, Maine, US.

Wails from a pair of Common Loons, Webb Lake, Maine, US.

Tremelo duet from Common Loons, Webb Lake, Maine, US.

Fans of electronic music will remember the classic loon sample in 808 State's track Pacific State.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Mediterranean Chameleon

I'm in southwest Spain. Today, after 11 field trips to the Costa de la Luz, I finally found a Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) - better than any bird today! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Black-crowned Tchagra song, Morocco (part 2)

For part 1 of this blog on the Tchagra, see here. Last week I was lucky enough to capture a pair of Black-crowned Tchagras  (Tchagra senegalus) duetting in Morocco. The male is uttering the musical, flutey whistles followed by the rapid, higher-pitched buzzy rattles (highlighted in red). The female immediately joins in with rapidly descending rattling/churring, followed by slower, discontinuous, nasal churring (highlighted in green).
Track in the Oued Massa flood plain, Morocco, 9 March 2014

Duetting song uttered from a pair in a Tamarisk in the flood plain of the Oued Massa

Further north in the Zaer cork region near Rabat, I recorded a more distant male initially singing bouts of perched song phrases before taking to its aerial display flight. In the recording below, you can hear a non-vocal signal between 0.8 and 2.6 seconds as it takes flight. This is known as 'wing-fripping'.
17 Km north of Sidi Betache, Morocco, 7 March 2014

Song phrases uttered from a male in flight -listen carefully between 0.8 and 2.6 secs for 'wing-fripping'.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Black-crowned Tchagra song, Morocco (part1)

Since my first trips to Morocco in 2007 and 2011 (High Atlas and the south-eastern desert area), I've wanted to return and do a trip down the west coast. This time I went from Larache in the north down to the Oued Massa south of Agadir. My main targets were African Marsh Owl (Asio capensis), Double-spurred Francolin (Pternistis bicalcaratus), Plain Martin (Riparia paludicola) and Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalus) - all seen. 

In particular I wanted to get some sound recordings of the melancholic, lilting, Tchagra song - one of the most beautiful bird sounds in North Africa. Most days were quite windy and most of the day at the Oued Massa was too windy for recording. Luckily I found a Tchagra singing right beside a track in a sheltered area and I used the car door as extra shelter - like a giant misshaped parabola! 

The Black-crowned Tchagra appears to have several song types. The first one I recorded below in the Sidi Betache area is a longer and faster type. Presumably this is from an advertising male. Later I will post a snippet of this bird in aerial display flight,
17 Km north of Sidi Betache, Morocco, 7 March 2014

The second type I recorded from the Oued Massa was shorter and slower and is from a paired bird. This song possibly may have more to do with male-female communication as its mate was observed close by. Later I will post a recording of a duet when the female joined it in the same tree.
Track in the Oued Massa flood plain, Morocco, 9 March 2014