This month we are staying in a rural location near Damascus, the Commonwealth of Virginia is a state in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions of the United States, between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains.. This is the farthest south in Old Dominion we’ve ventured. Known as “Trail Town USA”, Damascus, Virginia is famous for the three major trails that can be accessed from the town’s main street. We are staying across the street from the Creeper Trail, but the Appalachian Trail, Iron Mountain Trail, and many others are right nearby.
On our first morning here we went out to scout for sounds to field record and soon realized we had another field recording opportunity involving birds right outside our door in Virginia.
You May Have Noticed We Like to Build Rigs
This time we built a Field recording is the term used for an audio recording produced outside a recording studio. rig that would (theoretically) record two locations and capture video so we could identify the birds we were recording. I took our trusty tripod and mounted the A high resolution adaptive handheld multi-recorder. using a smartphone bracket, this left the 1/4-20 female thread on the bottom of the Portacapture open. Then we attached a portable power bank to it. We had picked up a A crab clamp features a threaded jaw that grips onto just about anything. with a 1/4″-20 thread screw a few months earlier.
Since we wanted to record a baited area over a long period of time, we attached another smartphone bracket to the crab clamp to hold the portable power bank and attached the clamp to the tripod. The portable power bank ensures the recorder stays running throughout the field recording.
Next, we attached the Due to the narrowness of their forward sensitivity, shotgun microphones are commonly used on television and film sets, in stadiums, and for field recording of wildlife. mic’s mount to that thread on the bottom of the recorder using a 1/4-20 camera screw and plugged it into the recorder. Now we can capture both The X-Y stereo technique utilizes two directional microphones at the same place, and typically placed at 90° or more to each other to achieve a stereo effect. stereo and mono recordings at 192kHz-32bit quality.
Phase one was setting up the rig and putting it outside to let the birds get used to its presence. Next, we needed to convince the birds to get close enough to it for us to capture individual bird calls and songs.
Now Back to the Birds
We picked up some bird seed in Damascus, filled a bird feeder, baited a nearby tree stump, and sat back in front of a big window to watch. The area came alive with the flutter of wings. We had The blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is a passerine bird in the family Corvidae, native to eastern North America., some sort of The downy woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) is a species of woodpecker, the smallest in North America. Length ranges from 14 to 18 cm (5.5 to 7.1 in). Downy woodpeckers primarily live in forested areas throughout the United States and Canada., a American Crows are fairly common and conspicuous throughout most of the lower 48 states outside the southwestern deserts.? Or, wait, was that a Look for ravens anywhere from the outskirts of towns (particularly landfills) to foothill forests or scrub, and out to the deep woods of mountains and national parks. Look for a long-tailed black bird flying on long wings and easy, graceful wingbeats.? I think that might be a You can find Dark-eyed Juncos by walking around open, partially wooded areas with understory for cover. Keep your eyes on the ground and listen for their twittering call or their trilling song.. What’s that one? That’s a The brilliant red of a male Northern Cardinal calls attention to itself when males are around. You can also find cardinals by getting a sense of the warm, red-tinged brown of females – a pattern you can learn to identify in flight., but is that a Titmouse or a The white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is a species of bird in the nuthatch family Sittidae. It is a medium-sized nuthatch, measuring approximately 15.5 cm (6.1 in) in length. Coloration varies somewhat along the species' range, but the upper parts are light blue-gray, with a black crown and nape in males, while females have a dark gray crown.? Is there a difference between the birds from New York and the ones in Virginia? Now we had all the birds, but we didn’t know what kind of birds. How are we going to learn to identify all these birds in the short amount of time we have to do it?
Cornell to the rescue
A quick internet search revealed a mobile app called Merlin. Developed by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Merlin is a bird id tool that helps you identify birds through pictures, a walk-through menu that uses geographic location, time of year, size, and color data, and yes, even sound. Using the app we were able to narrow down to the birds that are common in Damascus, Virginia.
Don’t believe your eyes
Using Merlin with our sound recordings helped us identify 18 different bird species. Eighteen? But I only saw five. By carefully going through the audio file in the app and comparing it to the data available about each bird, such as habitat, we were able to narrow that list down to 14. But 14 is still more than we remembered seeing. We reloaded the feeders, turned on the gear, and then spent an entire day watching out the window. We found our missing birds. It turns out that while that eye-catching Blue Jay is grabbing your attention, the little Carolina Wrens often come to backyards if food is available and will visit your suet-filled feeders in winter. that built its nest in the hole in the barn is darting out to grab seeds from the other feeder. While I was enamored by the antics of the adorable Look for Tufted Titmice flitting through the outer branches of tree canopies in deciduous woods, parks, and backyards. A quiet walk through woodlands will often turn up the twittering of a mixed-species foraging flock, and you’ll likely find titmice in attendance. You’ll often hear the high, whistled peter-peter-peter song well before you see the bird. I missed the You can find Eastern Bluebirds in open country with patchy vegetation and large trees or nest boxes. calling from the fence. What my untrained eye couldn’t see, my microphone was capturing.
Go listen to Some Birds
You don’t need to engage in field recording or travel to Old Dominion to spend time listening to birds. In fact, the Merlin app will help you identify your new friends using just the recorder on your smartphone.
We will be in Damascus, Virginia until the end of February and our mission is to get as many clean recordings of these different birds as possible, especially that elusive Raven. Not to mention the gaggle of squirrels, a herd of cows, a couple of horses, a donkey, and one relentless rooster. Using the Merlin app will help us identify and tag each sound file so the sound designers that download the files can accurately recreate the settings and scenes they need.