Filosofisk Film/Philosophical Films

The master singers

Since 2007 (actually the first attempt was made in 2004) I have been recording songbirds (indeed any birds that make interesting sounds) in my spare time, using a Telinga Pro 5 parabolic device with a stereo DAT microphone. First, a minidisk recorder was used to save the sounds – very convenient except that it is so tricky to transfer the files to the computer – but from 2009 on a Zoom H2/H2n digital recorder has replaced it. When taken up in connection with video filming, the Telinga sound was usually recorded directly to the medium used by the camera.

Below you will find a small number of these recordings. There is some focus on birds that imitate – they pick up the song of other birds, or imitate other environmental sounds of different kinds. No audio filters have been applied if not explicitly stated.

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Beginning in 2010 I have also filmed singing birds, not all of them true mastersingers, but all delightful to listen to. See the page Birdsong on film.  Most of the birds that have audio recordings are also represented there.

Lately, static or dynamic sonograms (made with Izotope RX v. 2 and Debut v. 1.83) have been added to some of the sounds and movies. See below, links marked with ® and red text. More to follow!

Several more videos of birds can be found on the page More birds, and other flying friends and on my Vimeo page.


Songbirds        Other birds


First a number of recordings of three great imitators – the marsh warbler (Swedish: kärrsångare), the bluethroat (blåhake) and Blyth's reed warbler (busksångare).

The first marsh warbler recording contains a lot of other sounds from dogs, fishermen, my handling of the parabole, and a reed warbler (listen carefully). A gentle noise filtering (5 dB) with Izotope RX and some cuts were necessary. The second and third are almost free of external noise except for a passing airplane (in the long one). It was a silent night indeed. The fourth recording needed some hum elimination.
Marsh warbler 1 (Hålanda, 2007). .

Marsh warbler 2 (Hålanda, midnight, mid-June 2011, 4 minutes). . ® For voice + dynamic sonogram, go here.

Marsh warbler 3 (Hålanda, midnight, mid-June 2011, 17 minutes). . ® For voice + dynamic sonogram, go here.

Marsh warbler 4 (Hålanda, midnight,  June 16 2014, 14 minutes). . ® For voice + dynamic sonogram, go here. For a movie with (probably) the same individual, see the bottom of this page!


The loud "noise" on the following bluethroat recordings comes from the river Storån which was very close. If you hear reed buntings, bramblings or willow warblers they are probably real, not imitations (but see below!).
Bluethroat 1 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012) .

Bluethroat 2 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012) .

Bluethroat 3 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012) .

Bluethroat 4 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012). .   ® For voice + dynamic sonogram, go here.

Bluethroat 5 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012) .

Bluethroat 6 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012) .

Bluethroat 7 (near Storådörren, Härjedalen, early June 2012) .


Blyth's reed warbler (sv: busksångare) is a rare guest in Sweden, but in June 2017 I had the opportunity to record one individual that stayed in Grästorp, Western Sweden, for several weeks. The three sequences that follow are originally parts of same, longer recording, but some noisy parts have been cut out. The remaining "noise" comes from the nearby stream. It has been said that the imitations of other birds that Blyth's reed warbler does are more exact than those done by the marsh warbler. I cannot judge this issue. When it comes to imitating other sounds, he matches the bluethroat.  In these recordings, you can hear him imitating running water as well as cow (or goat or reindeer) bells, like the bluethroat. – Or is it a quite different kind of bell? See below!

Blyth's reed warbler 1 (Ås, Västergötland, June 27 2017) .

Blyth's reed warbler 2 (Ås, Västergötland, June 27 2017) .

Blyth's reed warbler 3 (Ås, Västergötland, June 27 2017) .


Well, is it a cow or goat or reindeer bell? Listen to this gently filtered version of 13 seconds of song – not from any of the above sequences – where he repeats the same introductory signal followed by a bell six times:

. Is there not something like a Doppler effect in the bell's sound, especially in the two first "bars"? Also look at the downward slope of the ringing sound as shown in the spectrogram (left channel) of these bars:

 

A similar effect can be heard – maybe even more clearly – after 3:35 in the second recording above, and after 1:42 in the third. My theory is that the bird imitates the bells at a railway crossing that he has passed during his flight!

For a video of the same individual see Mastersinger videos.


The thrush nightingale (sv: näktergal) is also a good imitator. The first two of the following recordings had to be gently filtered because of traffic and other noise. The third one is unfiltered, the sound of the sea (and some wind) is prominent, and I think it gives the best feeling of reality of the three.
Thrush nightingale (Steninge, Halland, June 2010, 6+ minutes.

Thrush nightingale
(north-west coast of Öland, 1 June 2016), 6+ minutes.

Thrush nightingale
(north-west coast of Öland, recording direction towards the sea, 1 June 2016), 6+ minutes.

For a video with a thrush nightingale see Mastersinger videos.


The song of the Common nightingale (sv: sydnäktergal) is generally considered to be superior to that of its northern cousin. Here in a soundscape from a small village in Sardinia.
Common nightingale (Sardinia, April 30, 2010, 1'21")


Both the robin (sv. rödhake) and the redstart (rödstjärt) are close relatives of the bluethroat. For the robin's song see below. The redstart – not a prominent imitator – usually sings very early in the morning. This recording is from Steninge Kyrkby, Halland at 03.00, 7 June 2016. In the background a common blackbird (koltrast). .


Another good imitator with a beautiful voice is the icterine warbler (härmsångare, gulsångare). Here is an 8 minutes long continuous recording. Some filtering had to be done and there is still some wind noise, also two passing airplanes and a few more disturbances.
Icterine warbler (Steninge Kyrkby, 9.30 AM, 22 June 2016).


Here is the reed warbler (rörsångare), a relative of the marsh warbler, not quite as varied as a singer and not a great imitator, but still fascinating to listen to. The time for the first recording was not well chosen and I had to filter out some traffic noise.
Reed warbler (Hålanda, 9 PM, June 8 2014).   ® For voice + dynamic sonogram, go here.

Reed warbler (Steninge Kyrkby, Halland, 8.30 AM, 22 June 2016). Better conditions. Three minutes from a 15 minutes continuous recording, warbler starting at 0:26. A lot of other voices: cuckoo, skylark, woodlark, swift,... and, as I remember this morning but cannot hear now, a competing reed warbler (outside the parabole's focus, to the right).


Then another one of my favourites (also a good imitator), the song thrush (taltrast).
Song thrush 1 (Hålanda, 2007). Running water nearby.

Song thrush 2a and Song trush 2b (Hålanda, 2007).
This is actually a perceptual experiment. The first file is the original recording of a choir of birds, including a song thrush duelling with a common blackbird (or possibly a mistle thrush), all accompanied by a chainsaw. In the second file the thrushes (and other birds) are in the left channel and the chainsaw in the right (the separation was easy because the frequencies do not overlap). Use headphones for clearest effect.
Song thrush 3 (Hålanda, 2010, 2+ minutes). Listen to – what could be – the imitation of the wind after 35+ seconds.


The winter wren (gärdsmyg) is an energetic and likable singer.
Winter wren (Hålanda 2007).
I have chosen this short recording because of the thrush (probably a mistle thrush) doing scale exercises in the background, most clearly heard between the two performances of the winter wren.

Finally the beautiful, soft song of the woodlark (trädlärka):
Woodlarks (and some other voices) at Piano Zucchi, Sicily, early May 2015, 6+ minutes.
For a movie from that occasion go here.

Other birds

Here is the bewitching night performer, European nightjar (nattskärra, Hålanda 2007). Also the characteristic sound of a northern lapwing (tofsvipa) towards the end.

The pied avocet (Sv: skärfläcka) has a surprisingly large sound repertoire. Its most well-known sound type is a distinct, short call that comes in several versions, depending on the situation in ways that are not quite clear. But is also has a soft and varying "chatting" sound that may be characteristic of friendly social interactions. In this recording from a group of four birds (probably two couples), this social sound dominates, but there are also some distinct short calls between 0:10 and 0:15. At least one skylark (sånglärka) is heard very clearly during much of the time.

The avocet calls should be seen, not only heard. The above recording is the first part of the soundtrack of a movie, https://vimeo.com/244820170. For another avocet movie where many – not quite friendly – calls are heard, see More birds, and other flying friends: June 2015.


More pure voices will follow. In the meantime, pay a visit or two to the world's greatest repository of bird sounds: xeno-canto. It is a marvellous site.



Mastersinger videos

More birds here

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Updated January 14, 2018