Sunday, 27 May 2012

Birdsong karaoke

At 05:30 we gathered close to the osprey nest where Hafod Garegog meets the Welsh Highland Railway; Sabine Nouvet, ecologist from the National Trust, was there to lead us on a dawn chorus. The birds had been in full voice when my alarm went off an hour before and by now they were settling down. Unfortunately this was not the case with the midges.

Sabine and the psycho sedge warbler
Sabine guided us through the woods and we quickly got the hang of the chaffinch, a downward warble with a bit of a churr at the end. Song thrushes were like opera singers rehearsing their notes. Chiff chaffs were easy but dull whereas the wren’s was a complicated song. The willow warbler was a bit like a chaffinch without the churr and the garden warbler was a bit more ‘bubbly’.

Sabine’s descriptions were great but it wasn’t always easy to pick out the described call or song from the rich mix of other woodland birds. I think I got the redstart and eventually I picked out the pied flycatcher though I’m not sure how I’d describe it. Back by the cars we looked across the fields with their reed filled drainage ditches listening to the aptly described manic song of the ‘psycho’ sedge warbler.

We said our thank yous and goodbyes and drove out along the mile or so of new tarmac (not quite sure why the council found this a priority). As I journeyed home I wondered how many songs I’d remember and how on earth I was going to learn about all the other birds.

But this was my birthday and my clever wife had bought me a BirdVoice. A little microphone type gadget on which you can play back either the calls or the songs of every bird I could imagine. Just press the gadget onto the call or the song of any of the 290 species of European bids contained in a laminated, pocket size field guide. I can see this is going to be really useful and much moré than a gimmick. It would have been handy for Sabine to use when trying to describe the calls.

There are lots of features and functions I’ve not yet discovered but you can find out for yourself by visiting the BirdVoice website.

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