Sound recordings Wildlife

Bird recording

27 March 2011

Attenborough Nature Reserve. Image by Simon Cruickshank

Since 2007, I have been making sound recordings using in-ear microphones to produce binaural audio walks and installations.  Since March 2010, Ive been keen to use different methods of recording sound, particularly the sound of birds.  With advice from Wildeye, Jez Riley and the Wildlife Sound Recording Society, I have purchased a parabolic dish from Telinga and a Rode NT55 compact condenser microphone.  The parabolic dish acts as a focal point for sound to be captured by the microphone, it is such a powerful tool for recording bird song that it has been described as making the sound 10 times closer to the person recording the sound.  It is a non- intrusive way of recording birds from a distance, without scaring them away. A parabolic dish is “an acoustical filter, approximately compensating for distance.”

Last weekend I went to several places to test out the recording equipment, including the Attenborough Nature Centre in Nottinghamshire, the canal in Leicester (Rally Park), Watermead Country Park and Bradgate Park.

Here’s some recordings from that weekend:

Attenborough Nature Reserve, with a train track nearby it can be quite noisy, but it was large enough to be able to record some decent bird songs/calls.

Attenborough 1: Approx 2 mins, Celebrating getting the new mic to work, blue tits, geese, horses, a wood pigeon flying past, magpie? and the water lapping at our feet.

Attenborough 2: Approx 1 min and my favourite recording from the day: Blue tits, geese, gulls and mallards!

Contact microphones pick up vibrations, rather than air pressure.  Here is the sound of a contact microphone wrapped around a steel fence that is being pinged and slapped and also the placed on the throat area to pick up the vibrations of the voice box.

Steel smack and throat: Approx 1 min 30 secs

Canal in Leicester (Rally park), a bit dodgy but still one of my favourite places in Leicester.  The recording was distorted because of the sound of the weir and the factory nearby.  Ive not added the recording, as I can barely make out the sound of any wildlife, let alone the pigeons.

Watermead Country Park, a great place for bird watching and not bad for recording sound, although it is positioned next to a dual carriage way, so the sound of traffic can interfere with recordings. Recording coming soon.

Bradgate Park, the biggest park of all the above and the only one with wild deer and a dovecote.  This is where I was able to record the sounds of the birds (and pigeons!) and a bee trying to push its way under the earth. Recording coming soon.

Lucy Stevens’ artistic practice examines the acoustic ecology of the natural environment, using field recording, digital illustration, performance and printmaking as a tool to visualise sound produced by wildlife, weather and other natural phenomena.

7 comments on “Bird recording

  1. Ken Flint

    Looking for bargain equipment for a trip to Costa Rica? Any advice?

    • Studio spares, or… otherwise its pretty expensive, I got some of my equipment from, but Studio Xchange on Ebay is good, great equipment and really good service. Depends what you are looking for. Good luck!

  2. Barry Cooke


    Recently discovering nature sound recording. Also considering Telinga and am interested in your choice of microphone….did you select on advice and how is it performing with the dish?

    Best Regards


  3. Barry Cooke


    Did you try a DIY parabolic reflector (e.g.Wildeye) before the Telinga? If so any advice much appreciated on using DIY approach or purchasing Telinga.

    Best Regards


    • Hi Barry

      I did buy a cheap parabolic reflector from Wildeye, during one of the sound recording courses. Although this didnt come with a handle to hold the mic in position, it just had a hole. We ended up using a coat hanger to hold two omni directional mics. It worked ok and I would recommend it to someone who is just starting out as the price difference is quote large.

      I brought the Telinga because it was lighter, more robust and could be folded while travelling.

      Hope this helps.


  4. Barry Cooke


    Many thanks for your help. Portability not a problem and finances always are … so I’ll try the DIY approach for starters.

    Best Regards


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