Filosofisk Film/Philosophical Films

The master singers

As a 12 year old boy, I fantasized of mounting a pivotal parabolic microphone on the roof of our summer house. With it installed, I would not have to get up in the middle of the night in order to hear all the beautiful birdsong that my father had taught me to recognize.

It took almost 50 years before something like that dream came true. Since 2004 I have been recording songbirds (indeed any birds that make interesting sounds) in my spare time, using a Telinga parabolic device with a Pro 5W handle and a stereo DAT microphone. 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.

Most of the sounds are coded directly with the HTML5 <audio> device and their icons look like this (it is the mistle thrush from 2019, see below):


Take care to let this page load fully before clicking on any of these audio icons! Else the audio files may not run. Please also note that the preset sound volume differs between recordings.

Some of the sounds are instead represented by links to the big birdsong site xeno-canto, and more will be so in the future. They look like this (for the same recording):


This has many advantages. If you not only play the sound but also click on the XC link, you will find information about the recording there. But many of my recordings are not on xeno-canto and will never be. For these, the old-style icons will remain.

Beginning in 2010 I have also filmed singing birds, not all of them true mastersingers, but all delightful to listen to. See the page Birds and birdsong on film.  Most of the bird species that have audio recordings here (all that have a visual icon), and sometimes the same individuals, are also represented there, so that you can see how they look and behave when singing. This adds an important dimension to the experience of birdsong.

Indeed, this is one of two main motives for running a birdsong page at all. There are many pages where you can listen to almost any bird you want to hear. See especially the world's greatest repository of bird sounds: xeno-canto. It is a marvellous site, but does not host any corresponding movies.

Another reason has to do with sound quality. As a rule birdsong pages offer only mp3 quality, which is enough for identification purposes. Most files on this page are also mp3 quality. But uncompressed WAV or AIF can give a much richer experience. The videos on my birdsong film page have uncompressed sound. Moreover, I have started putting the original audio files on SoundCloud and embedding them on this page, so that you can compare the compressed and the original sound. This is how it looks, click on the red arrow (if you click outside it, you will be redirected to SoundCloud):
 


Sonograms can also enrich the experience of birdsong. 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 on this site. For the moment only three such movies are to be seen, on Birds and birdsong on film, years 2012 and 2013. The below sonogram links marked with ® and red text do not work at present.

For acknowledgements see the About page.

Songbirds        Other birds


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

Marsh warbler


The first marsh warbler recording contains a lot of other sounds from dogs, fishermen, my handling of the parabola, 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 and the fifth recording needed some noise reduction.
Marsh warbler 1 (Hålanda, 2007). .

Marsh warbler 2 (Hålanda, midnight, mid-June 2011, 4 minutes). . ® For voice + dynamic sonogram, go here (link presently not working).

Marsh warbler 3 (Hålanda, midnight, mid-June 2011, 17 minutes). . ® For voice + dynamic sonogram, go here (link presently not working).

Marsh warbler 4 (Hålanda, midnight,  June 16 2014, 14 minutes). . ® For voice + dynamic sonogram, go here (link presently not working). For a movie with (probably) the same individual, see Birds and birdsong on film, 2014!


Marsh warbler 5 (Hålanda, morning of 17 june 2018, 4 minutes). Note the nice sound of strong wind in the grass, as opposed to wind noise. Thanks to Telinga for their wind screen!




Marsh warbler 6 (Steninge, morning of 23 May 2019, 15 minutes). Also in strong wind.

Bluethroat


All the bluethroat recordings were made during the same trip to Storådörren, Härjedalen in early June 2012. The loud "noise" 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!). For bluethroat videos with sonograms, see Birds and birdsong on film, 2012!
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 (link presently not working).

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


Blyth's reed warbler (sv: busksångare) is a rare guest in Western Sweden, but in June 2017 I had the opportunity to record one individual that stayed in Grästorp's community 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 Birds and birdsong on film, 2017.

Starling

The Common Starling (sv: Stare) is still a very common bird although its favourite habitats in open rural landscapes are shrinking.


Starlings have an immense sound repertoire and are fond of imitating and good at it. But they also have very characteristic sounds of their own, as for example the glissando (gliding note) that the first recording begins with and the castanets (kastanjetter) starting at 0:25. The recording is the soundtrack of a movie at Birdsong on film, Hålanda 21 March 2016 with some gentle filtering added, and you hear more than one starling. Note the row of imitations starting around 40 seconds: Common Blackbird/koltrast, possibly Common crane/trana (could be real), Whitethroat/törnsångare, Eurasian curlew/storspov.


In the following recording, one or more starlings imitate a Redwing (sv: Rödvingetrast). You first hear a flock of maybe 1000 starlings at a distance of some 200 meters, then a smaller group of around 30 that moved to a tree in our garden. Different versions of the falling sequence characteristic of the Redwing are heard faintly in the first part and strongly in the second and third, beginning at 1:55. No Redwing was seen in the small flock and I am 95% sure that it this is an imitation. For more info see the description on xeno-canto. There you can also find a lot of redwing recordings.

There are many starlings on my movie page, and more sound recordings will appear here in due time.

Robin and redstart

Both the European robin (sv. rödhake) and the redstart (rödstjärt) are close relatives of the bluethroat, something that is rather apparent in their colours.


The European robin (rödhake) is a common and brilliant singer with a large register, specialist on very high notes. He sometimes sing in mid winter even in Sweden. My very first recording with the Telinga parabola is of a robin singing at midnight in Göteborg around 20 December 2004. The city is rather silent but there is a regular noise from the light control at a nearby pedestrian crossing.


Next recording is from the evening of April 2013 in Hålanda. In the background: a song thrush.


For a shorter movie of the same bird, with spectrogram, see Birds and birdsong on film, 2013. For a more recent video see 2016.


The Redstart (sv: Rödstjärt) – 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).

 

See also under Blackbird below!

More warblers

Many warblers (sångare) beside the marsh warbler and Blyth's reed warbler are excellent singers.

The icterine warbler (härmsångare, gulsångare) is a good imitator with a beautiful voice. 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 close relative of Blyth's reed warbler (busksångare) and similar in appearance. It is not 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 (link presently not working).

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 parabola's focus, to the right).

For videos of the reed warbler see Birds and birdsong on film, 2016.

The Willow warbler (sv.: lövsångare) is Sweden's commonest bird, and its simple song performed with a lovely soft voice is an invaluable component of the bird choir from April to June.

Willow warbler, Byrum, Öland on 28 May 2017. In the background a bullfinch (bofink), a thrush nightingale (näktergal), and more.

There are four willow warbler videos on the film page, from 2011 on, and the above is the soundtrack from the latest one.

Chiffchaff is the onomatopoetic name of a common singer that in Swedish is called Gransångare. It is closely reated to the willow warbler and looks similar. Its simple song sequence is repeated every 8th second or so in this recording from Hålanda, 20 April 2019. You can also hear a common blackbird (koltrast) and the nearby creek.


If you listen for long (longer than this minute) to a chiffchaff, you will learn that its song has many variations and a nice timbre.

The Common Whitethroat (sv: Törnsångare) sings a rather stereotype tune with great force.

Here is a part of the soundtrack from a video clip on Birds and birdsong on film. Hålanda, Sweden, 28 May 2012.


The Garden warbler (sv: Trädgårdssångare) has a strong voice and a varied song that is often characterised as "bubbling". Here is a recording from Hålanda on 23 May 2019, where the singer competes with the bubbling from a nearby creek.


The garden warbler's phrases vary in length. In the following recording from Hålanda, 5 June 2019, it sings continuously for 30 seconds from 2:15.

 


The Blackcap (sv: Svarthätta) is a relative of the garden warbler and has a similar appearance and a similar but much more regular song. It has a most beautiful voice and usually sings its easily recognizable tune with small variations several times.


Here is a short and somewhat noisy (wind and traffic) recording from Steninge, Halland on 24 May 2019. A chaffinch (bofink) challenges.


The following recording from Hålanda, 5 June 2019, was done under better circumstances. A willow warbler is also heard.

 

Blackcaps are also heard on several other recordings on this page. Regrettably I still do not have a good video of a singing blackcap, but see Birds and birdsong on film, 2011.


Nightingales



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 Birds and birdsong on film, 2017.


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)

Thrushes

Common blackbird (koltrast). His voice is wellknown to most and loved by many.

Here is a very long recording for his real fans, 18 June 2017 near Hålanda:   

The blackbird has other sounds on its repertoire. Its warning sound is often heard and well known. And in the beginning of the next recording which features a Blackbird and a Redstart, West coast of Öland late on 31 May 2016, you can also hear – best from around 30 seconds – a repeated, fine, falling tone that is probably a distress sound from the blackbird. It is perhaps more easy to see it on the spectrogram from the first minute than to hear it!


Song thrush (taltrast). One of my true favourites, a good imitator and sometimes very funny. Below are three recordings.

Song thrush 1 (Hålanda, 2007). Running water nearby.

Song thrush 2a and Song thrush 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.

For movies of song thrushes see Birds and birdsong on film, 2013.


The Mistle thrush (dubbeltrast) is very like the song thrush visually, but bigger. The darker field on its breast is characteristic.



Its forceful song its varied and can be difficult to identify. It is generally like the blackbird's in its beautiful timbre, but more like that of the song thrush in its phrasing. As far as I understand, it is not nearly as fond of joking as its cousin and does not imitate so much.

Mistle thrush (Hålanda, 8.00 on April 28 2019, 4+ minutes). A common chaffinch (bofink) also makes itself heard clearly. 


Here is a 6 minutes+ video of the same individual later the same day.

A few other singing birds

The Whinchat (buskskvätta) thrives in traditional, open rural landscapes and is therefore becoming rare in many places.


Its song is simple but varied. Whinchat, Hålanda an early May morning 2019, with several accompanying voices:

Another example of whinchat song can be heard on the birdsong movie page.


The Pied flycatcher (sv: Svart-vit flugsnappare) is familiar to many.


Its sings a tune with small variations but does it very forcefully. Here one recording from the same May morning.



The Eurasian wren (gärdsmyg) is another energetic and likable singer.
Eurasian 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.

Here is a longer, recent recording. A chaffinch, a blackbird and a blackcap are also heard.

The (European) Greenfinch (sv: Grönfink) is not only nicely coloured but also a competent and original singer. It has often been likened with the canary (kanariefågel).


Here is first a recording from our garden in Hålanda, July 2010.


Then a more recent recording that also briefly features a blackcap (svarthätta) and a blackbird (koltrast).

The Common Chaffinch (bofink), Sweden's next to commonest bird, is heard on many of the recordings on this page.


Its song is somewhat similar to that of the willow warbler (lövsångare) but not as soft and with a more forceful ending. Here is a short recording from Grönån near Hålanda in April 2016.



Finally (for the moment) 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.

Woodlark, Steninge, Halland 23 May 2019:


Do you miss the Skylark (sånglärka)? Please wait...

Sounds of 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. Morup, Halland, xx 2015. 

The avocet calls should be seen, not only heard. The above recording is the first part of the soundtrack of a movie, see Birds and birdsong on film, 2015.  For another avocet movie where many – not quite friendly – calls are heard, see the same page and date.

The loud social and warning calls of the Greylag Goose (Sv: Grågås) are familiar to many.



The sounds presented here – mating calls, rather obviously – are different. One bird calls out irregularly with a loud and more high-pitched voice than usual, while the other instead quickly repeats a short, softer sound. (Or could it be the same individual?) The latter sound is difficult to hear with the naked ear under normal conditions. I have only found a few earlier recordings of these calls and no information about which part produces which sound. Greylag geese (and a few jackdaws, kajor), Hålanda, March 18, 2020 at around 6.30 PM, Telinga Pro V parabole. The louder call is best heard after 1 minute. There is a similar recording at XC535442.



More pure voices will follow. In the meantime, pay a visit or two to xeno-canto.



Birds and birdsong on video

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Updated March 20, 2020