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! 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


Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Amazon? No, West London

Ring-necked or Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) flying to a roost site in west London, 1/5 second exposure while panning.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dockland Shelducks

In East London, within sight of the Millennium Dome and close to UK's tallest buildings, you can find these Common Shelducks (Tadorna tadorna) sifting through the mud.

More to come at:

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gulls, gulls, gulls

From general observation there seems to more Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) wintering in London at the moment. I haven't made regular counts of this species at the sites I frequent so it may just be that I'm looking for the wider image!

More to come at:

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Windhover Alighting

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
More to come at:

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Heron maneuvers in the wind

This juvenile Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) was photographed in the Docklands of East London. Flying over at a fair height, it suddenly decided to rapidly descend to the water, while having to contend the strong winds. I've cropped these for blogger but are really best seen large and uncropped with the heron dropping in a open sky.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Smew on a London boating pond

A redhead Smew (Mergellus albellus) was found on the small boating pond in Alexandra Park in North London by Henry Wyn-Jones late yesterday afternoon. His photographs appeared to show that the duck was really close so trying to stick with my resolution to photograph more this year, I dragged myself out early into the gloom on a work day. On arrival it was fairly close but the rain was heavy. When it eased I got set up but it retreated further out and caught several small fish. It was fairly active, even sitting up on the main island (and revealing no rings) and later it was scuttling all over the pond as a pugnacious Little Grebe constantly chased it from its territory around the bamboo. The Little Grebe had no interactions with the Tufted Ducks, Pochards or Mallards, presumably because these species are not competing for it's fish! The light remained poor when I had to leave for work so I only managed a few records shots. Let's hope in hangs on till the weekend. More info on Dominic Mitchell's blog here.

Friday, February 07, 2014


Last weekend saw some respite from the gloomy winter weather so I headed out with Lisa to Essex to try some new subjects. I photographed these Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria interpres) with both a 24-105mm and 500mm lens. In the coming months I'll definitely return to this site. Getting out of London on public transport can be a pain but worth the hassle for a subject change like this.

More to come at:

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Mallard

Not much was happening on my last photographic outing. When this happens I tend to experiment a bit. So, using shutters speeds between 1/10 and 1/25 of a second, handheld, I attempted to make some Mallards look more interesting. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Birding Trip Report for Summerland Key, Florida

Following my recent field work in the mangroves around Summerland Key in Florida, I've uploaded a trip report of the the birds noted to the main site:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Some sounds from Summerland Key

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

These excited calls are from a female as the male returned with a fish and settled beside her on the nest. The calls continued until the male retreated to a nearby tree in the mangroves. I noted the male returning each morning between 07:00 and 08:00 and the female would begin calling long before I could see him in flight. On one occasion when I guessed that a distant bird could be him, the female began calling. This shows what amazing eye sight these birds have: at this stage it would have been impossible for us to have guessed what species it was never mind that it was her returning mate.

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)

Mewing calls from a bird in thick vegetation at Katherine Street pond.

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

This bird was fishing in the freshwater pond at Katherine street and would call each time it returned from a dive or changed its fishing perch. It initially flew in from high overhead, uttering a long series of more excited versions of this call, but I didn't have the microphone set up at that stage.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Confiding Pelicans

The heat, sun and humidity returned to the Keys today. Here are a couple of images of the birds with the bills, as I passed under them in a kayak.

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), Summerland Key, FL

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), Summerland Key, FL