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.

Under Pure voices below you will find a 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 been videofilming singing birds, not all of them true mastersingers, but all delightful to listen to. See the lower half of this page, Audiovisual.  Most of the birds that have audio recordings are also represented there. Obviously, the videos are (with two exceptions) not meant as complete movies but only as material for future productions.

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.

Pure voices



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 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 (and still is there when this is written). It is 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. The three sequences are originally parts of same, longer recording, but some noisy parts have been cut out. The remaining "noise" comes from the nearby stream.

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) .

For a video of the same individual see below.


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 nightinggale see below.


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). .

A redstart movie can be found below.


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.



Audiovisual


Here are the mastersingers on video, arranged according to the time of recording and/or the time of finishing the film. More will follow!

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 also 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.

2011–2012

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...


2013

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.


2014

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.

For (many!) more starlings, go here.


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.




2016

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.




May:
Next are some clips from May 6–12, 2016 in Hålanda, featuring four common birds: robins, willow warblers, greenfinches and yellowhammers that competed for the best seat in the highest pine top around. The first movie is rather special.

Many birds are known to sometimes sing with a weaker song than usual. It is not quite clear which role(s) such "silent song" has, but some experts say there are two kinds: (1) subsong, which is not as articulate as the normal song and is sung by inexperienced birds and out of season, and (2) whisper song, which is quite normal except when it comes to volume and which is sung by adult birds in the midst of heat and often near the nest. See for example http://earbirding.com/blog/archives/2910. As far as I know, the Swedish term "skuggsång" covers both kinds of silent song.

Here we first hear a duet or rather a song duel between a robin (visible) and a willow warbler (not visible). Note that the two songs are equally strong. Then, the robin ducks and in comes a willow warbler. When he (?) starts to sing it is with a very weak voice – one has to look carefully at his throat to be sure that it is he singing. He goes on singing for a while and then flies away. At the end we again hear the "normal" willow warbler together with the robin, just for comparison with the silent singer.

It should be added that there was most probably a willow warbler nest close by, since I saw one bird flying in and out of a dense pine tree. So, this could well be an example of "whisper song" in heat.



--to be completed--


June: A composition from two mornings at the western shore of Hålsjön, Ale, Sweden on June 11-12, 2016. The main character is a singing reed warbler – this marvellous rap artist – and we also get a glimpse of him flying together with his mate. A shorter shutter time would have improved that scene! We see a reed bunting listening to the reed warbler and we hear a number of other birds including a blackbird and a common crane (towards the end). There is also a surprise voice in the beginning – now you have been warned! Please note that the last five seconds or so of the reed warbler's song in the close-up scene towards the end is sung very quietly and with closed bill – compare the Silent Song video above.

As usual these days the scenes were shot with a Panasonic GH4, an Olympus tele lens corresponding to max 1600 mm, and finally my dear old Telinga Pro 5W with its Stereo DAT mic.




2017

Here is first another composition, a small movie featuring the three imitators presented above: bluethroat, marsh warbler and song thrush. (Swedish speaker voice).




May:
On May 28 2017, close to Byrum at north-Western Öland, I was out at 4:30 AM trying to get a glimpse of a thrush nightingale (näktergal). Suddenly I saw one sitting in a dead tree some 5 meters away, without noticing me. First it sat silent and looked like a museum specimen. Then it started singing. Camera: Panasonic GH4, Olympus tele lens, filmed in full HD but this copy is in 720p format. Sound: Telinga Pro V with Stereo DAT microphone. The Baltic sea in the background, no filtering.

While the song displayed here is characteristic of the thrush nightingale, these birds have a much greater repertoire. For longer, pure audio recordings of thrush nightingales, including two from a nearby location, see above.




A little later on the same morning and the same location, I got some close shots of a willow warbler. Like the song thrush, our commonest bird is rather shy and not quite easy to film when singing, but at this occasion I was standing in the direction of the rising sun so he probably did not see me at all. Among background voices: a thrush nightingale (best heard in second part).




June:
In the natural reserve near Glassvik, Steninge (Halland), the landscape is kept open by grazing sheep. Enormous junipers (svenska: enbuskar), brambles (björnbärsbuskar) and honeysuckle (vildkaprifol; end of movie) are character bushes and plants. The reserve is a known location not only for Common Linnet (hämpling) but also for Common Rosefinch (rosenfink) which is actually becoming rare in Sweden. Here one first hears at least two singing linnets – only one seen, but look carefully, and you will surely hear a second one! Then the friendly call of a rosefinch – "nice to meet you", or "hej på dej, du" – is heard to the left, but the bird is hidden in dense foliage and I fail to catch it on video. A chaffinch (bofink) is also heard now and then, as are raindrops on the parabole. 6 AM on 11 June 2017, GH4, Olympus tele and Telinga Pro V with Stereo DAT mic.




Then a few glimpses of a Redstart (sv: rödstjärt) couple. They are busy feeding their young, who are not visible because the parents warn them for me. Steninge Kyrkby, 2:30 PM on 22 June 2017, the usual equipment. For redstart song see above.

--to be completed--

Finally: Blyth's Reed Warblers (Swedish: busksångare) are rare guests in Sweden. This spring, one of them has stayed a long time in Grästorp's community, Western Sweden, and has become something of a celebrity among ornithologists and local people alike. Here are 5+ minutes of his remarkable sound production, recorded around 8 AM on June 27, 2017. Camera: Panasonic GH4 with Olympus tele lens, focal length equivalent to 1600 mm. The video is in full HD (1080p), but the moving leaves makes for a high information content, so don't use the HD setting for streaming if you don't have a fast connection. The picture should be sharp! Sound: Telinga Pro V; a very gentle noise filtering has been applied to dampen the sound from the nearby stream. – For pure sound recordings of the same bird see above, or soundcloud.com/user-370092153/zoom0033-2 (etc).



More birds here

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Updated July 12, 2017