Thursday, July 30, 2009

The many voices of a Scottish Whinchat

Back in early June I made a sound recording of a Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) in Glen Brerachan in Perthshire, Scotland. It was early morning (0540h), misty and a light drizzle was threatening to become heavier. Within a ten minute period this male surprised me with its vocal mimicry as it sang from a silver birch slope overlooking a juncus rush marsh. I recognised at least 15 avian species plus the sound of a distant lamb (of which there were several grazing nearby) and quite probably a frog (also abundant in the area). Several other phrases may have been from unknown species picked up in the wintering quarters in Africa. The Corn Bunting/Corncrake combination suggests that this bird was reared, or spent a previous breeding season, in either the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides) or even Eastern Europe. The rain put paid to further recording and I did not manage to find time to revisit the area later in the week. Hopefully I will be able to relocate this male on territory in 2010 for futher sound samples.

Incorporating thrush mimicry; single verse consisting of Mistle Thrush alarm rattle followed by three phrases of Blackbird song.

Finch mimicry; a single verse consisting of rearranged Chaffinch song (trill-flourish-trill).

Bunting mimicry; a single verse consisting of a very close representation of Corn Bunting song.

Multi-species mimicry in a single delivery; two rasps of Corncrake advertising song followed by territorial vocalisation of a displaying lapwing, and almost certainly a frog vocal.

Wader mimicry; a single verse consisting of two unrecogisable phrases and the start of Curlew terriorial vocalisation.

Hirundine mimicry; a single verse consisting of the dry chirps of a House Martin followed by possible Acrocephalus vocalisations.

Mammal mimicry; a single verse consisting of a representation of a distant lamb, followed by an unknown phrase.

Thrush mimicry; a single verse consisting of probable Nightingale phrases.

Wader mimicry; a single verse consisting of the piping flight call of Oystercatcher.

Bunting mimicry; a single verse consisting of Reed Bunting song, followed by an unknown phrase.

Thrush mimicry of two vocalisation types from the same species; a single verse consisting of Robin call followed by song phrases.

Hirundine mimicry; a single verse consisting of the fast, dry flight twitter of Barn Swallow.

Warbler mimicry; a single verse consisting of the first few phrases of Willow Warbler song.

Wren mimicry; a single verse consisting of various phrases of Wren song.

Wren mimicry; a single verse consisting of almost 3 seconds of various phrases of Wren song.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Birding in Poland Trip Report

Finally finished my report of a recent trip to Poland... I'll add a map and full species list at some stage. Below are a few sonograms of Aquatic Warbler, Lesser Spotted Eagle and River Warbler, and I'll try and upload the actual sounds to the blog. They were recorded with a Sennheiser ME-66 microphone and a Sony HD-MD MZ-RH1. Sonograms were produced using Syrinx spectrographic analysis software ( & labelled in Adobe Photoshop. Full report here:

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

North-east Poland

The blog has been quiet this last month, mainly as I have been out in the field a lot. Mid-June I had my annual field course at Kindrogan in Perthshire and I’ve just returned from a trip to Poland. More on both these trips later.

Firstly here are a few photos from north-east Poland where I was camping in the Bialowieza Forest and Biebrza Marshes, birding, sound recording and chasing butterflies and dragonflies. It was a magical experience waking up to yodelling Golden Orioles every morning, stumbling though ancient forests of cathedral-like proportions, finding seven woodpecker species and surprising a Pygmy Owl. Dusk forays produced rasping Corncrakes and reeling River Warblers but the everyday birds were just as impressive with Red-backed Shrikes everywhere, and White Storks and Black Redstarts in every village. Fields full of wild flowers were heaving with butterflies, particularly fritillaries. Later in the Biebrza Marshes, a huge wetland but with little visible water, Aquatic Warblers were my main quarry but Great Snipe was sadly missed. It was hot and humid with temperatures up to 31C and after several hours in the forest dodging mosquitoes and in need of food, I started to think I was back in the tropics. An impressive meteorological feature most days were the towering cumulus clouds building in the late afternoon, cumulating in sometimes impressive thunder and lightning storms. These, and their preceding strong winds, often cleared with an hour or two as cooler, more pleasant evening was ushered in. I caught up with one of my favourite species again, the Eurasian Crane, and their evocative bugling sounds was a feature around much of Biebrza National Park.

A full trip report will appear here within a few days:

Bugs'n'beasties names..
Eurasian Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum
Elk Alces alces
Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa
Club-tailed Dragonfly Gomphus vulgatissimus
Scarce Chaser Libellula fulva
Scarce Copper Lycaena virgaureae
Pearly Heath Coenonympha arcania
Heath Fritillary Mellicta athalina
Lesser Marbled Fritillary Brenthis ino