Filosofisk Film/Philosophical Film

Birdsong on film


Beginning in 2010 I have been filming singing birds, not all of them true mastersingers, but all delightful to listen to. The sound was always recorded at the same time as the image. 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. Several of the audio clips on the Mastersingers page 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.

Obviously, the below videos are (with two possible 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 movies. See below, movies and 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.



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. One might think that this very common bird, or at least the individuals that live near settlements and are used to seeing and hearing human beings, should be an easy target for photo and film. In my experience this is not the case. The bird is quite shy, and if it spots you even at a long distance it leaves at once. This 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. A 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) singing from the top of a fir, 21 april 2013, Hålanda. Yes, a favourite! And he was sitting still... Canon XL-H1A with Canon FD at an equivalent focal length of 1.200 mm, Telinga Pro 5 parabole mic.




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 audio recording from 10 days later (see the Mastersingers page), 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 the Mastersingers page.




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 the Mastersingers page.

--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 the Mastersingers page, or soundcloud.com/user-370092153/zoom0033-2 (etc).






Mastersingers (audio)

More birds here

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Updated January 14, 2018