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Posts Tagged ‘Manx Shearwater’

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Remote islands are interesting places. Almost every island has it’s own ecosystem which can be interesting to record. One of those islands is Elliðaey, which is a part of Vestmannaeyjar islands, south of Iceland.
I got an opportunity to go there on a 24 hours trip with Bob McGuire, which is recording birds in association with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds.
I am not a specialist in the ecosystem in Elliðaey so I will not say much about it here. It is slightly different between each island in the region and the bird species can be different from cliff to cliff
Our main target in Elliðaey was European storm petrel and Leach’s storm petrel. Bob was collecting individual calls and songs but I was going to record hours of ambiances. The bird colony gives a strong smell as usual, but this island also has a strong smell of sheep. For decades there have been several landowners and farmers from Heimaey island who keep there several dozens of sheep during the summertime.
Puffins have been in a very difficult situation for many years, especially south Iceland and Vestmannaeyjar islands. Mainly because some annually rhythm changes in the ocean biosphere. That situation was visible in Elliðaey. Probably more than 50% of the Puffins burrows were empty and abandoned and dead chicks were also visible around.
Not all birds have difficulties and many other bird species also live and breed in the island; Atlantic Puffin, Manx Shearwater, Leach’s Storm-petrel, European (British) Storm-petrel, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Northern Fulmar, Common Eider, Common Murre, Black Guillemot, Common Raven, European Starling, White Wagtail
As soon as we arrived I quickly found locations for the recorders and then we walked around in the bumpy landscape for other locations. We were early in the breeding season, 4th of June, so we were even not sure if birds we were going to record, like European storm petrel, had already arrived. What surprised me most was the silence in the interior island. No sound from the ocean waves or cliff birds, only wing flaps from busy birds above our heads, mostly puffins. But there was also a low rumbling noise, which filled the air and was difficult to locate. It took me time to figure out what it was, but it was from ships somewhere far away on the ocean, so far I could not even see them in the horizon. This noise never stopped when I was awake. It was just differently loud during day and the night, and of course louder when ship passed close to the island.
The following recording was made just before midnight on a hill south of the hut in the island, located almost in the middle of a puffin colony.
It is mostly puffins wing flaps, when they fly over, landed close by the microphones and sometimes a „spray & splash sound“ when they poop
Later that night both Leach’s Storm-petrel, European Storm-petrel surprisingly arrived to the island. But that will be for another blog.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 60.3Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser paralell MKH8020/8040 in AB40 (4ch)
Pix. LG G6
Location: 63.466604, -20.176682
Weather: Calm, misty & light shower, ca 12°C

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