Recording sounds

Recording bird sounds

I like bird watching, and I would like to improve my skills in recognizing bird sounds. To that end, I recently bought a small audio recorder (the H1n handy recorder, for those interested).

It takes a bit of practice to get a good recording, and most files need some editing to get rid of the most annoying ambient sounds. There are various tools, but for me the choice was easy, as I already have Audacity, which is arguably one of the most widely used, and very powerful open source sound editors.

Using Audacity

I started to use Audacity to clean up the audio of video recordings I made for my lessons. But working with sound records of birds is another story altogether, as you have to deal with a lot more background noise. I got some good pointers from this side, a site dedicated to sound birds. Perhaps the most important one, don’t overdo it (similar to editing photo’s). Below you can listen to my first three recordings, all three cleaned up a bit using the high-pass filter and noise reduction functions. I might have overdone the editing a bit, not sure.

What you see here is the spectrogram of one of the recordings. In most cases I find it difficult to relate the visible pattern with what I hear. But the sound of the little bittern definitely has a distinct pattern.

Figure 1: What you see here is the spectrogram of one of the recordings. In most cases I find it difficult to relate the visible pattern with what I hear. But the sound of the little bittern definitely has a distinct pattern.

The recording of the little bittern was actually most difficult to deal with. The low-pass filter is usually good to get rid of the background noise (cars, wind), but the sound of the little bittern is quite low itself. But anyway, below to three recordings, one with a couple of frogs, one with a song thrush and a third one with a little bittern calling. I am sure you’ll recognize the pattern of the latter in the image above.

About the audio player

Just a side note about the audio player above. For those interested, I used the howler.js javascript library. Besides the library itself, you can also download the code of a demo music player. To use it with your own audio file, you’ll need to edit the player.js file. In my case, I also adapted the look of the player a bit (reduced button sizes, different color scheme).

Paulo van Breugel
Paulo van Breugel
Lecturer & researcher

My interests range from biodiversity and ecology to spatial data analysis. I am also what one could describe as a lifelong learner; I enjoy to learn new things and widen my horizon, both professionally and personally.

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