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. Under Pure voices below you will find a number of these recordings. There is a focus on birds that imitate – they pick up the song of other birds, or imitate other environmental sounds of different kinds.

I am gradually replacing the old sound links that only seem to work with Safari; with other browsers please use the audio icons: Take care to let this page load fully before clicking on any of the audio icons!

No audio filters have been applied if not explicitly stated.

Beginning in 2010 I have also been videofilming singing birds, not all of them true mastersingers, but all delightful to listen to. Here the Telinga mic has been used in conjunction with the camera. See the lower half of this page, Audiovisual

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.

Pure voices

First a number of recordings of two great imitators – the marsh warbler (Swedish: kärrsångare) and the bluethroat (blåhake).

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) .

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.

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.

And here is the bewitching night performer,

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

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.

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.


Here are the mastersingers on video. Between 2012 and 2015, I often used a Canon FD(L) 100–300 mm lens with my Canon XL-H1A, and usually had the Telinga mic attached to the same tripod as the camera. The bluethroat audio clips above are actually from such recordings. The flying cranes movie was made with the XH-A1s plus the Telinga. Beginning in late 2015, a Panasonic GH4 has been my first camera. Here are some samples – more will follow!


Willow warbler (lövsångare, an early attempt in June 2011, XL-H1A with standard 20x zoom lens and inbuilt mic). See also below, June 2013!

Blackcap (svarthätta, another recording without any extra equipment. Steninge, early July 2011.)

Flying common cranes (tranor, Lake Hornborga, April 2012).

European Pied Flycatcher (svartvit flugsnappare) presenting some variations on his characteristic melody. Hålanda, 4 May 2012. In the audience: a tree pipit (trädpiplärka). Camera: XLH1A, mainly inbuilt optics but one scene with Canon FD lens. Sound: Telinga Pro 5 with Stereo DAT mic. (To be completed.)

Song thrush (Sv: Taltrast). Hålanda, Sweden, 26 May 2012. The recording is of 6 consecutive minutes. Video: Canon XL-H1A with Canon FD 100-300 mm lens. Sound: Telinga Pro 5 parabole with stereo DAT mic, recorded on the HDV tape.

Whitethroat, May 28, 2012, Hålanda. The Swedish name Törnsångare (Thorn singer) is really fitting! The sequence ends with a meadow pipit (ängspiplärka) that listens to the whitethroat and responds in its own way. XL-H1A first with standard 20x zoom lens, then with Canon FD 100-300mm. Sound: Telinga Pro 5 with stereo DAT mic.

® Bluethroat imitating a brambling (blåhake som imiterar en bergfink), early June 2012. Sonogram image now added.

Blue bubbles. Bluethroat showing part of its repertoire during 4 minutes. Storådörren, early June 2012.

Blue bubble sound. The dynamic sonogram from the above movie.

Blue bubbles with sonogram. This 4 minutes continuous recording of a quickly moving bluethroat is not so much a video as a soundtrack with a few successful video parts attached. As usual it was very difficult to spot the singing bluethroat with the long tele lens (equivalent to 2.200 mm), and even more difficult to keep track of him when he moved. Beside the bluethroat's many imitations and other more or less peculiar sounds (including the bubbling starting at 1'9") you can hear a cuckoo, (very faintly) a willow warbler and a reed bunting, and finally (more close) some mosquitos.

See also the full bluethroat movie.

Whinchat in wind (buskskvätta, Hålanda, early August 2012 – a good singer, but not singing here)

Goldfinch (steglits, Hålanda, early August 2012 – deplorable camera technique, better song technique!)

Barn swallows (ladusvalor, Hålanda, May and August 2012). They speak for themselves...


Song thrush (taltrast, 21 april 2013, Hålanda.) Yes, a favourite! And he was sitting still....

® Song thrush, with dynamic sonogram. The same bird at the same occasion, but with a sonogram running in parallel.

European robin (rödhake, 21 April 2013, Hålanda).

® European robin, with dynamic sonogram. The same recording but with the sonogram running in parallel:

Spotted flycatcher (grå flugsnappare, early May 2013, Öland)

Another willow warbler (lövsångare, 1 June 2013, Stensjö Strand, Halland). A blackbird sings too. Canon XL-H1A with Canon FD 100-300 mm lens. At this occasion my Telinga parabole was on service so the inbuilt microphone was used (mono recording). This is why the blackbird completely dominates the sound picture.

Common blackbird (koltrast, 1 June 2013, Stensjö Strand, Halland)

® Common blackbird, with dynamic sonogram. The same recording but with the sonogram running in parallel.

Evening concert at Tåkern Great reed warbler (trastsångare) and great bittern (rördrom), these birds only heard. 17 June 2013.

Sound of great bittern (rördrom). Hof, Tåkern, Östergötland 17 June 2013.

Great spotted woodpecker (större hackspett) feeding the young, and their typical sound. Hof, Tåkern 17 June 2013.

Common griffin (enkelbeckasin), typical sound from stationary position. Vålådalen, Jämtland, June 26 2013.


Common starling (stare) displaying from a rooftop, Hålanda 29 April 2014. He may not be a mastersinger, but surely is a great performer! XL-H1A, Canon FD lens 100-300 mm, Telinga Pro V parabole.

The same starling the day before, a close-up.

Marsh warbler (kärrsångare) Hålanda 5 June 2014. Most probably the same individual as on the above audio recording from 10 days later, but not the same as the one singing in 2011.


March: "our" starling has just arrived in the garden and greets us with a little crazy evening concerto from a birch. But did he come alone?  Hålanda, 21 March 2016, Panasonic GH4, Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200 tele lens + 2x teleconverter (effective focal length around 1300 mm), Telinga Pro V parabole with stereo DAT mic. No editing except that I put together a few short and almost consecutive clips. Note the imitations starting around 40 seconds (blackbird/koltrast, whitethroat/törnsångare?, eurasian curlew/storspov?). Sorry for the background wind+traffic noise, any substantial filtering would distort the song.

Reed warbler, Hålsjön, Hålanda, Sweden, evening of 4 June 2016, two separate recordings of the same bird added together. The second recording ends in a diminuendo – does it have any special significance? Also a crane calling at the end, they nest "around the corner". Panasonic GH4 + Olympus lens (effective focal length 1600 mm), sound: Telinga Pro V parabole with Stereo DAT mic.

More birds here

Back to Filosofisk Film

Updated July 8, 2016