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Two years ago, when I was recording in Skaftafell National Park, I noticed that Redwings sing differently between two places in the park. In the forest around Skaftafellsheiði, above the campsite and the information center, the redwings sing quiet „normal songs“ as most Redwings do in Iceland. But in nearby valley, in Morsárdalur in Bæjarstaðakógur forest, most of the Redwings colony start their song with two long tones before the „normal song“ starts.
I have search my recordings for something interesting. What makes it different and what is common with this Redwing songs which will probably bring me, or someone else, to further research.
But I will not talk about it here, because that will be another story.
By slowing down the recording four times (1min > 4min) it makes a totally new soundscape. It sounds like a rain forest full of screaming monkeys. It opens my mid for different understanding on birdsong. Redwing’s song is much more complex than I thought. They are far from being singing the same melody or make a simple message all the time. It sounds more like a complex language.
It does not matter what they are doing. Are they speaking to each other, sending messages or singing a complex song to the crowd, it always leave the question: What are they doing and what does it all mean?
Following recording was recorded last summer in Bæjarstaðaskógur. You can hear this special Redwing start his song with its two tones before he continues with a „normal“ song.
In the normal speed recording at 2:40, you will hear a rumble from the Morsárjökull glacier which was about 10km away
Background noise is mostly from streaming water in the mountains and the Morsá river.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at low level.

Normal speed.
(mp3 256kbps / 12Mb)

Slow speed (4x).
(mp3 256kbps /41Mb)

Recorder: Sonosax SR-X4+ (24/48)
Mics: Sennheier MKH20 (AB40)
Pics: Canon EOS-M

Weather: Light cloud, showers around, calm, 10°C
Location: 64.058877,-17.024021

Auglýsingar

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First weekend of August I traveled to Ísafjörður in the northwest of Iceland. From Isafjörður I took a daytrip with a boat over to Hesteyri which is located in a nature reserve named Jökulfirðir.
The weather was splendid so it was ideal to bring the recording gear with me and record the atmosphere at Hesteyri. This time I brought with me my newest mic setup I built inside Rycote stereo AG windshield. It is a 40cm spaced AB rig (AB40), a two stereo channels with parallel MKH8020/8040, which is slightly angled outward (around °5).
In Hesteyri I record in several places in a small area. Two of them was on the beach where the waves gently plays the music on the coastline during the rising tide. One of this recording is posted here below.
The wind was about 3-6 m/sec, blowing parallel among the coastline so the wind hit only the other side of the windshield, not front of it.
I used MixPre6. The gain was at 50dB, High pass filter on MKH8020 was 120Hz and on MKH8040 80Hz.
The microphones were placed on tripod 60cm above the ground. During the recording the tide rise so in the end the waves went under the rig.
Background noise is mostly the sea waves further outside the fjord and rivers behind and allaround the fjord. Sometimes the boat is knocking on the pier, 200 m away on the left side.
In post I lower the gain -5dB on MKH8020 and rise the gain +5dB on MKH8040 to keep the audible gain between the mics close to be equal. Use again Hi-Pass filter at 100Hz to minimize wind rumbling noise. and then normalized all three audio clips to 0dB. No low pass filter or noise reduction was used.
Both MKH8020 and MKH8040 sounds pretty similar in this recording, so I guess someone will ask:“ Why use four mics when two seems to be fine?“ “ Why making this four channel rig with this expensive mics?“ The short answer is this. The 8020´s are detecting sound from all 360° while 8040´s is only detecting 180° front of the rig. So if there was something behind the rig, like traffic noise it would been clearly audible with 8020´s, but far less with 8040´s. At this time (in Hesteyri) it was only a silence behind the rig so this is not a ideal recording for omni – cardioid comparison.
Field recording is mostly „once in a time – moment capturing“. So having a two different stereo recording of the same event, it is more likely either recording is OK. Two different recordings also give several opportunities in post.

MKH8020/8040 mixed together.
(Mp3 256kbps / 38Mb)

Only MKH8020
(mp3 256kbps / 5,3Mb)

Only MKH8040
(mp3 256kbps / 5,3Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH8020/8040 (AB40) in Rycote AG (See pictures)
Pics: Canon EOS-M

Weather: Sunny. Light breeze 3-6 m/sec, ca. 14°C
Location: 66.333261, -22.873719

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This two midsummer recordings were made around four o´clock in the morning 15th of July 2017 nearby Arnarholt farm in Stafholtstungur, in west of Iceland. It is recorded on two stereo channels with two different microphones because usually every time I recorded in this place the recordings has been disturbed by traffic noise all night long. But somehow for some unexplained reason no car went around nearby road for more than two hours, so I got a wonderful recording this morning.
I placed those two microphone rigs very close to each other and pointed them toward north. Afterwards I could not decided which of those recordings were better so it is yours to decide which you like.
There are many bird species in this recording. Common Snipe, Golden Plover, Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Black Taled Godwit, White Wagtail, Black headed Gull, Winter Wren, Northern Wheatear, Snow Bunting, Rock Ptarmigan, Common Starling, Redwing, Great Northern Dever, Whooper Swan, Graylag Goose and probably other species. Birds like Starling and Redwing are flying between branches in nearby trees.

My favorite microphones for nature recordings are Sennheiser MKH20 an omni-directional condenser microphone and Rode NT1A (slightly modified), a large capsule cardioid polar pattern studio condenser microphone. Both these mics have lowest self-noise available on the market.
I am used to use MKH20 in AB setup which mean the mics are in 40-45cm spaced parallel position (AB40). Then I turn the capsules 2-5° outward which gave me sometimes slightly „wider or more open space feeling“. This setup give me a stereo recording, 360° surround the rig.
My second best omni-directional ultra low noise mic for nature recordings is AT4022 but it does not sound as „musical“ or „natural“ as MKH20, so it is not as often in my tool box,
Cardioid mic detect sound mainly from one direction. so I use NT1A in different circumstances.
Lets say I like to record a birdsong. At the same time it is disturbed with unwanted noise, coming from another direction like waterfall, river flow, surf or traffic noise. I can place the backside of the cardioid mic to the noise source which mean I will get less of the unwanted noise and more of the birdsong.
In last two or three years I have not used NT1A in ORTF or NOS setup for outdoor recordings. But instead use AB4, same as for MKH20, which seems to give less phase error for the sound behind the rig.

These two recordings are NOT good examples for this two different mics in critical circumstances because no car passed by behind the rigs and most of the birds activity was also front of the rigs. But it gives a nice insight how this two different mics sounds and how the self-noise act in „quiet“ nature recordings.
NT1A was inside Rycote Cyclone + fur. MKH20 was inside Rycote WS2 windshield + fur. Both rigs are in AB40 +3°
I use MixPre6 in this recording. There is no doubt, the new Sound devices Kashmir mic preamplifier is ultra low noise and a sweet step forward to get better field recordings.
The HPF was at 40Hz and the gain was at 50dB for NT1A and 43dB for MKH20. The gain settings mainly get this arrangement because then both rigs sounds have equal level in the headphones while I was recording. In post the gain was increased almost 30dB on both stereo channels, up to -10dB.
Specrogram shows „all“ frequencies was bellow 8Khz so to lower unwanted mic self-noise I pull everything above 10Khz down with EQ (-5db @ 11Khz & -30dB @ 15Khz) .
This is a „quiet“ recording which mean you should listen to it at low level in quality headphones or speakers in quiet place.

NT1A recording
(mp3, 256kbps / 50,6Mb)

MKH20 recording
(mp3, 256kbps / 50,6Mb)

Here are two shorter version of this recording but now without high frequency cutoff and the gain level is normalized up to 0dB, so it should be easy to hear the mic self-noise in low quality headphones and PC amplifiers.
It is also easy to notice that MKH20 is covering 360° of the surround soundscape, while NT1A is only covering 180° with less bird songs and other activity.

NT1A. Without high freq cut off, normalized to 0dB
(mp3, 256kbps / 11Mb)

MKH20 Without high freq cut off, normalized to 0dB
(mp3, 256kbps / 11Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Rode NT1a and Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40 setup)
Pix. Canon EOSM

Location: 64.673460, -21.629304
Weather: Calm, cloudy, ca. 7°C

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One year ago I was recording in Skaftafell national park and neighborhood in southeast of Iceland. One of my favorite recording place in this area is not exactly in the park, but on Skeiðarársandur, a huge broad sandy wasteland along Iceland’s south-eastern coast, between the Vatnajökull icecap and the sea.
One of the reason I love this place is the silence. There is almost „nothing“. Just the sand. In the horizon far away is the glacier Vatnajökull on the one side, and on the other side just the sky. The only thing that disturbs this silence is traffic or the wind. So when it is calm during the night and traffic is down it is possible to listen deep into this amazing open space. There is not much life. There is probably only Rock Ptarmigan that lives there all year around. Other species are migrants during the summertime so it is easy to say, Rock Ptarmigan is the residents of silence.
This recording is a recording of silence. Most people will not hear anything in this circumstances, probably only its own heartbeat and notice „they have“ tinnitus. But with best equipment is it possible to listen deeper into this quiet place.
You will hear some birds and insects. With good headphones you will hear the rumble sound of heavy surf on the beach 20 to 30 km far away.
BUT this recording is not completely quiet. So be careful while listening. Two birds, a male and female Rock Ptarmigan, are coming very close, „talking“ loud into your ears (2:05).
It is also worth to listen to another earlier recording from this place. „Stories from Skeiðarársandur„.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at low level.

(256kbps / 61Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices 788
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40 +5° outward)
Weather: Calm, cloudy, +5°C
Location: 63.969892, -17.160072

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I have published many times recordings from the Nature Reserve Flói in southwest Iceland, so I will not introduce that area again.
During the years I remember couple of times when curious sheeps have disturbed the recording. This is one of them.
This peace is a 30 minutes of nine hour overnight recording. It was recorded between 7 and 8 o´clock in the morning 25th of July 2015.
The recording is not only disturbed by the sheeps, it is also highly disturbed by tourist traffic, especially in the air. Jets are arriving and leaving the country and smaller planes in sightseeing so this peaceful area is not especially quite this time.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at medium level.

(256kbps / 57,2Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices 788
Mics: RodeNT1 (NOS) & MKH20 (AB40) as close together as possible
Pix: Canon EOSM
Location: 63.901026, -21.192189
Weather: Calm, cloudy, around 11°C

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Bæjarstaðaskógur (Farmsted forest) is a small forest in the east of Iceland, in Morsárdalur, in Skaftafell national park.
Morsárdalur, is a wide valley blanketed with woodland, contains multicolored rhyolite formations at Kjós valley, and the outlet glacier Morsárjökull with its creaking icefalls.
The forest’s name, Bæjarstaðaskógur, suggests that it used to be a farmstead during the Middle Ages and the ruins were quite visible until the 18th century.
Bæjarstaðaskógur is a beautiful oasis in the vast spread of sand. This 30 hectare forest is the most robust birch forest in Iceland, its birches can reaching 12 meters height. There are also Island’s straightest birches and the most precious. Bæjarstaðaskógur also has rowans and the most beautiful display of Icelandic wildflowers.
I have noticed that Redwing songs in this area is very different from other normal Redwing songs, even for whole Iceland. This Redwings stay in a small area, from the west side of the river Morsá to Bæjarstaðarskógur. Their song start with three or two falling pitch tone, always the same, before they start to sing in full blast.
If you are trained listener you will hear this Redwing song in this recording.
This is a 28 minutes part of seven hours long overnight recording. This part was recorded at 30th of May 2016, between 6 and 7 AM. About one minute after the recording start you will hear high rumbling sound from Morsárjökull glacier and with quality headphones you should hear rumbling sound many times. The mid range ambient noise is mostly rivers in mountains all around and Morsá in the valley. The white noise is a mic noise
This is a highly amplified recording. Recorded with MKH20 & NT1a, very close to each other at 52dB and then amplified again +30dB, so the sound is rather „flat“.
Quality open headphones are though recommended while listening at low level.

(256kbps / 54Mb)

Recorder: Sound Devices 788
Mics. Rode NT1a (NOS) & Senmnheiser MKH20 (AB40)
Pix: Canon EOS-M
Location: 64.059604, -17.026755
Weather: Mostly clear sky, calm, temp. around 2°C

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Last summer I spend one week at Raufarhöfn, a small village in north east of Iceland, close to the arctic circle. Most of the time it was a fool‘s weather for „quality“ recording. But anyway, I recorded almost 6 to 10 hours every night close to the sore. Most of theese recordings contains rumbling wind noise, but sometimes – very few times, I got what I was looking for.
Here is one of them, recorded 17th of June 2016.
It is early morning. The clock is around four. Birds are busy to protect and teach their young to search for food. Shortly after the recording starts, you can hear a fisherman pass by on his car on way to the harbor. Then later, the fishing boat goes, and passes by on the way to the sea. It takes a long time for the enginenoise to disrepair.
This is a peaceful recording. A typical midsummer morning soundscape at the arctic circle, where the sun never goes down. Many bird spices are in this recording, but mostly Common Eider and their youngs. Also you can hear Oystercatcher , Golden Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Red Necked Phalarope, Whimbrel, Common Snipe, Redwing, Snow Bunting, Svan, Great Northern Diver, Northern Fulmar, Kittiwake, Raven and probably may other.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level.

(256kbps / 55Mb)

Recorder: Sound Devices 788
Mics. Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40)
Pics: Canon EOS–M

Location: 66.451296, -15.946621
Weather: Light gust, cloudy

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