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Posts Tagged ‘White Wagtail’

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Svartárkot means “Black River Croft” and is a working sheep farm at the southernmost part of Bárðardalur valley in northern Iceland. It lies on the western bank of Svartárvatn lake, at the southernmost point of Fljótsheiði heath, around 400 meters above sea level, at the foot of the Ódáðahraun lava, the wildest uninhabited lava interior of Iceland. To the south, a wilderness extends all the way to Vatnajökull glacier, the largest ice-cap in Europe. To the south and east lie the rugged uninhabitable areas o the highlands, the domains of glaciers and lavafields. A colourful cultural history is to be found further down the valley towards the lowlands. Svartárkot has been inhabited through most of Iceland’s history and can be seen as a symbol for the interplay between humans and nature, human habitation and wilderness. In addition to sheep, the farmers at Svartárkot maintain a trout fishing business by selling fishing licenses and home-smoked trout and arctic char. They are also experienced guides with a vast knowledge of the interior preserved through generations, and lead both hiking tours and mountain jeep excursions(source).
I was at Svarárkot farm in late May 2018, with Bob Mcguire who was collecting bird sounds in associate with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds. Farmers were busy in lambing and birds in mating, especially Barrow´s Goldeneye. This duck is not common in Iceland. They are mainly found in NE Iceland, around lake Mývatn and at Svartárkot farm, probably because farmers make nesting boxes inside the barn´s walls.
I and Bob spent maybe two or three hours at Svartárkot recording birds, sheep and soundscapes. Just before we were leaving the place, I put up my rig between the lake and the sheep sheds and started recording. The outcome was the following recording.
It starts peacefully in calm weather. Behind the microphones is the sheep sheds and in front is the lake with most of the birds that make sounds in this recording. Nosiest are the Barrow´s Goldeneye with its strange male´s „ticking“ attracting sound. There are also other birds like Raven, White Wagtail, Dunlin, Arctic tern, Common Ringed Plover and Whimbrel. The farmer is driving on four wheeler between the buildings on the farm and suddenly the wind gets stronger until it was almost impossible to continue the recording.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 62Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH8020/8040 (AB40)
Pix: Canon EOS-M

Location: 65.340929, -17.244718
Weather: Calm up to 10m/s, clear sky, about 12°C

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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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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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White Wagtail

I and my family spent a bank holiday last weekend in May in Union´s vacation house at Apavatn in south Iceland. The weather was typical for spring. Sunny, but cold and windy.
This was not exactly the best weather to record bird song, or “nice spring mood”, but when I placed the microphones not far away from the house, a White Wagtail gave me a nice tweet as a professional singer close to the microphones.
Not far away was a playground with big trampoline. Most of the background sound is the drumming sound from this trampoline, screaming children and waves from the lake. Through the all recording a weak tweet sound is coming from young bird in nearby nest.
In the end of the recording people are gathering together in a hot tub.

Það gustar um Maríuerlu.

Það var um júróvisjonhelgina 2012 sem fjölskyldan fór í orlofshús við Apavatn. Veðrið var ágætt að sunnlenskum hætti. Sól, en fremur svalt og gekk á með norðan rokum.
Mikið var um fólk á svæðinu. Því var umtalsverður skarkali, ekki síst á leiktækjasvæðinu þar sem meðal annars var risavaxið trampólín. Þar hoppuðu börn sem fullorðnir ákafast eins og heyra má í bakgrunni.
Öldur börðu grjótið við vatnið og vindur gnauðaði í trjánum. Við hvert orlofshús var grenitré og virtust fuglar hafa hreiður í þeim öllum. Maríuerla ein var stöðugt á vappi við sólpallinn og góndi reglulega inn um gluggan hjá okkur. Þegar ég svo setti hljóðnemana út fyrir hús gerði hún sér litið fyrir og tísti góða aríu í gegn um rokið.

Download mp3 file (192kbps / 24,6mb)

Recorder: Sound devices 744
Mic: Rode NT2a in spaced omni (60cm AB setup )
Pix: Canon 30D (see more picture)

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