Randy Little, Gregory Budney, David Herr
Recording workshop field trip conversations.
Discussion about Dr. Arthur Allen and the history of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
- Dyson Lane; First 90 degree turn
- 39.75217 -120.31439
Decoded MS stereo
Log of DAT #: 1
conversations in background, movement. birds in background
recording is stopped. Starts again.
conversations in background, movement. birds in background
Talk of how man vans are going
Along here you can hear there are a couple of marshrins, real interesting and easy to record. It's a good bird to start on if you're not used to your -Oh listen (bird tweeting) Isn't that great? That's a milkshake bird. If you can get right up on ____ that's a milkshake bird, and you asked when should you use the parabola reflector. For something that low frequency that's go to have shotgun. No way you can do without -that low frequency. So there goes a couple whit face ____. That's not a milkshake bird but those, they've got a cool call and they normally give it when they flush.
Is there an extra cheat sheet? Believe or not, when I was switching around the cords last night it must've come off. What a stupid thing.
Otherwise I'll just look at somebody's.
Well you should be able to, you know, the equipment, the habitat, behavior. Another milkshake bird and two mallards flying there if you can get close enough to get some of that vocalization.
Talk about cows
Somebody needs to go down there and do that marshrin.
One of my favorite birds. I learn they sound like a tredle sowing machine.
Well, Don Kusman(?) has done some research, he gonna talk about, there is an easy bird to record and there's a lot of research being done. So it's gonna be fun if somebody has some recordings he can probably tell you what they're saying.
talk of when people are leaving
Talk of what kind of mic Shawn is using and how he should be recording. Not related to the topic. Lots of moving around in the background.
shuffling movement in background
Talk of lost equipment
Sound of people moving around. Some birds in background. Instructions and directions for the day are being told in the background
Instructions for the day come in clearer. Directions and locations of the days events are given.
Right along the road we've got some very cooperative marshrin singing right behind. I hear yellow headed black birds off in the distance. The sage brush out here . . .
sound a cow mooing followed by laughter
What was that? (laughter) That'll be another one of your challenges this morning: minimizing cow noise. You might be able to convince Dave to herd them off for you. Out in the sagebrush, what do you we have Dave? We have part of the sparrow challenge right?
We'll have bruer sparrows there, it's a three or four parted song. Real, real pretty, high pitch. And we'll have meadow larks and it would be really neat if somebody could find a sage thratcher in there. There are out. And Ring(?) had a couple of vesper sparrows so there are two of those to look for out there. And actually, Ring had a song sparrow down along here, so you could get three sparrows here.
You could actually get four, right. Savannah sparrow. Especially in the low grassy areas that separate the sage brush, get Savannah sparrow. So that'd be four sparrows knocked off in the sparrow challenge here. Well worth it. The general plan is to record until about 8:30, we'll meet back at the vans for breakfast, and then we'll go out for a little while after that. Randy and Dave and I and Kathy will be circulating to give people help running their equipment. For some of you this is your first time turning your gear on and we're quite willing to help.. And if we're not around in the nearby vicinity, come find us. We're more than happy to give you some assistance. Randy do you have anything you'd like to add.
I will add here GPS information now if you wish. We are at latitude ______ North, _____ West. We are in Plumice County California. (more talk about location, elevation, etc.)
One thing that Randy and Dave and I generally do - Randy mentioned this in the demonstration yesterday -Try to figure out pretty quickly where your noise sources are gonna come from. That flock of cattle over there are going to be one noise source. So you want to keep that in mind as you approach any bird that you're tryin to record, that you're not aiming the microphone at the bird with cows directly in his path, behind the bird. Another source is gonna be A23 running along the west side of the valley. It's pretty quite right now, but people will be going to church here shortly, so that will be getting a bit noisier. There's usually not too much train traffic on the weekends, but to the north there is actually rail service across the valley. So those are also potential noise sources. And we want to remind everyone again that if you see someone recording, if they give you the high sign that they're rolling tape, please keep your distance and be cognizant of other folks working out there. Are we gonna roll one of the vans down there to disperse people or do we just let them walk?
Just let them walk.
Up at the next 90 degree turn is a very similar habitat. No marshrins, but good sparrow habitat and you could run into wilson's fowler _____ especially on the right hand side of the road. Santiago, I know you were interested in wilson's fowler ____. A good place to look is actually in these wet areas right on the right hand side.
movement, chat about noise the movement makes on mics and other not applicable chat cows and birds in background
ambi -birds. There is sometimes a cow in the background, but it is spaced far enough apart so that it probably won't interfere.
a person speaking the background about distance and how it affects sounds, how to place mics, sound screening, and some other technical tips. A bird is chirping very loudly over the speaker. I can't tell if the bird or the speaker is the focus of the recording. Both interrupt each other.
ambi -bird. Cow sometimes in background. The bird is very clear, but the cow sounds are frequent and loud.
We are getting closer to the sound of someone's voice.
You'll also discover that foliage can be a barrier, particularly to the high frequency components of the sound you're trying to record if the subject is behind foliage. So in order to capture the full frequency spectrum of a sound it's desirable to try to get a line of sight to the subject.
Yeah , I usually had it with the sight, but you're right.
When it drops down behind the foliage you may notice, with careful listening, that you'
Re getting the lower frequencies more than the highs. It loses a little bit of the crispness and brilliance.
But you're right about, what you were saying yesterday, how the whole sound quality changes as you do this right when you hit the spot.
The intensity, not just the quality, (not understandable)
Additional techniques that you can use to minimize background noise is, in a flat terrain like this, most of the background noise is going to be coming from the ground. If you can get low and aim up, you've got open space.
That's good because I'm really picking up the cows loud.
You're not gonna avoid the cows I'm afraid. They're fairly low frequency and the lower frequencies tend to just wrap around everything. It takes a fairly large obstacle to block the lows. Definitely get them to your back than in-line, but to minimize the pick-up of all the surface noise, which is considerable when you get down to it, getting low to the ground and aiming up is very beneficial. Also, if there's a breeze, the closer to the ground the lower the velocity, so that the breeze on the microphone will be minimized by getting the microphone lower and you can learn to use the reflector slung up-side down so that you don't actually have to get down. But in an open environment such as this some of the species that you're libel to work, may change their behavior by unnatural objects such as a recordist. In those situations you're best advised to use the foliage, use the sagebrush and the _____, as a visual screen to hide your approach to the bird. Whether your using it as a sound screen, use it as a visual screen to keep you from either being detected or being a threatening object to the bird. Not to say that if the bird is threatened by you and changes its repertoire it's not worth recording. It's still worth recording. The stealthy approach can frequently pay off in getting some recordings that are beautifully clean by letting you get close.
jumbled conversation. People talking over one another. Lots of cow noise in the background. Talking about how distance affects recording.
One other trick that you can use in a dense tooley environment like this is stand back at a distance and observe the bird. It is advertising its presence and it's proclaiming a domain. It may move from perch to perch but it will pretty much outline it's domain in that movement. Look at the various perches that it uses and figure if there isn't one of them that would give a particularly nice angle from a particularly good place to sit down and become part of the environment. Go to that spot, sit down and just waited make its round, come to that perch, you're ready, you've got the recording.
In the very early days of laboratory _________, Fox Movieton(?) wanted to capture for a news reel a video of a singing bird and they came to Cornell to have Dr. Allen show them how it could be done. And after they overcame the notion that he wasn't going to bring the bird into the studio, they were going to have to go out, they accepted that, went out to the location where there was a song sparrow that was going to be recorded. He suggested that they set up their equipment here at this fence post, and it made no sense cause there was no bird at the fence post. But in a short time they understood what it was all about. That was one of the favorite perches of the song sparrow. It was right in the heart of its territory. And as soon as they settled down the bird came there.
bird call underneath conversation
That was a Wilson snipe, that sounded from the fest post.
ambi -birds. The birds come in really clear, but so do the cows.
We're getting a graphic example of how birds sometimes call during certain operations, such as landing, and then won't make any vocalization until they take off again perhaps. Sometimes in order to get that recording you have to be anticipating when you see a Wilson Snipe flying over, hope that it might come in and land near you. Get the tape rolling and learn to track that moving subject just in case it vocalizes. One thing that could be done here with the snipe on the fence post, you could stealthily approach it, but have your tape running. Normally you wouldn't have your tape running as your walking, but have your tape running, be ready for it to take off anticipating that it might vocalize when it does.
ambi -cows and birds. Intermittent mumbling in the background.
What is the exact definition of that caller? Do you have a name for it?
I don't have a name for that peeping caller was giving. The snipe has a flight display that has a sound that typically called winnowing. That might be what you had in mind. I don't know that there's a
No. It was beeping, beeping, beeping.
Yeah, that's a vocal.
That again was the vocal, the actual call of the snipe. While it's flying around frequently it goes into an advertising kind of light where the feathers cause a sound. It's called winnowing. You'll hear that as the morning develops. It'll probably be a sound that at first you don't' wake up to, you won't realize it's there and you'll have to strain your eyesight to pick up the bird in the sky. But that winnowing sound has a name to it. I don't know that there is a real name for the calling itself.
I was impressed with the excellent technique of announcing right then at the end of the recording the conditions under which it was made, what it was, the distance, temperature. That was good.
sound of movement and cows
Even if you don't know anything about birds, I think you can recognize the predominant creature we're hearing here. It's a herd of cattle across the valley. I guess they're at least a quarter of a mile away but there's about one hundred of them and they're making a lot of noise and all across this flat valley floor it carries as clear as can be.
ambi - birds, cows
microphone is bumped around
conversation between Shawn and Carolyn and Bill about who is recording what.
sounds of walking and movement
Alrighty, here we go. Five minutes general ambience. We're actually closer to the cows than anyone else will be, since that seems to be a morning focal point. Five minutes ambience. We're at day one. To the right of the first turn in marsh land; It's a little squishy under my feet. We'll do three minutes here and then two minutes somewhere else.
ambi -birds, cows
sounds of movement
talks about dummy nests and its role in mate selection
Could you just identify yourself on tape. Say how we should identify you.
I'm Randy Little. I'm a member of the administrative board of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Bird sound work is my hobby. I'm an electrical engineer, retired from AT&T. Communications Engineering is my business. But I had the great fortune of as a child, growing up next to Cornell university where Dr. Allen and Dr. Kellogg were very outgoing, helpful people, were happy to introduce me to birds. Dr. Kellogg introduced me to bird sound recording. And over the years as a grade school and high school student I managed to have a great time and learn a lot accompanying Dr. Allen and Dr. Kellogg.
Tell us who Dr. Allen was because the was quite an important guy.
Arthur Augustus Allen, Doc Allen, was the first PHD in ornithology. It was about 1914 that he got his doctorate and was hired as a professor at Cornell to teach ornithology. At the time the organization and the university into which he received his appointment was the Department of Entomology, insects studies. And professor Needham, who was chair of the department suggested that in order to -shall we say -justify teaching ornithology in a department of entomology that Dr. Allen might call his room the laboratory of ornithology. That's the genesis of the name at Cornell. It was the first department that actually taught ornithology as a specialty. Doc Allen's graduate students over the years have gone on to form the departments of ornithology at many other universities. But the real root was Doc Allen.
He founded the science of ornithology ?
I think that might be going further than the facts really bare out, but he was certainly one of the principal ornithologists in the academic sense. Not only in the U.S. but world-wide. He was particularly skilled and motivated toward popularizing ornithology. So not only was he teaching it academically but he was carrying out the message to the general public, which I think did a lot to bring the science into the fore front. He got a good deal of mileage out of the public outreach. He was published in National Geographic frequently. That increased the public awareness of ornithology and it was sort of a compounding effect that brought graduate students to him that were adept learners and carried the message further. I would say Doc Allen was probably the most important person in North American ornithology, certainly, in the academic sense.
One other person that was key to the effort was his sidekick. Dr. Kellogg. Peter Paul Kellogg earned his PHD at Cornell under Dr. Allen. But then stayed onto form the Library of Natural Sounds at Cornell to advise a number of students whose specialties were more in the sound side of things, whereas Doc Allen was the photographer of the pair, if you will. It was a great team. And that tradition has sort of been carried on by a number of graduate students to this day.. Don Krudzma is going to join us in a day or so, a professor at Amherst whose quite adept at bird sounds recording but also will give our student here, our participants, a first-hand interpretation of some of the behavioral aspects of what we're observing -help them understand what's happening biologically.
So you went recording with Dr. Allen and Dr. Kellogg when you were a boy?
I did. And in the late fifties and early sixties when I was as student at Cornell, Dr. Allen had advised me that at that time I basically had learned all of the ornithology that an undergraduate would learn at Cornell, so I should study electrical engineering so that I would understand all of the equipment that the sound reformists used, so I did that. And I sort of was his student assistant while I was a student to curate and actually make recordings for the library of natural sound. But then I went on, professionally if you will, to use the electrical engineering in the telecommunications industry and it became a very strong avocation to continue recording on the side. Now that I've retired from AT&T I'm able to spend more time at that, but for the past fifteen years I've used vacation every year to come back and help teach this workshop. Great personal satisfaction and I think the participants also appreciate the chance to get pointers from somebody who's done it and somebody who's had the coaching from the original experts.
Alright. Thank you.
We speak as if this wren has been the star performer for years and years and years. I honestly don't believe that it's the same individual wren but I don't know otherwise. Don Krudzma has studied marsh wrens extensively. He might be able to tell us something about the longevity of the species. The probability that this same bird is the one that was here last year or the year before.
I'm having some technical difficulties. I don't know if maybe my headset just doesn't work. It seems to be recording but I can't hear anything when I try to play it back.
Now a dat is a machine that involves getting a spinning head like a vcr up to speed so that you can actually write the signal onto the tap e. And in high humidity conditions in particular, getting that head spinning with the tape sometime is more than the machine can do and you may think you're recording but you're not really doing the job.
So I'm not sure if it's not recording or if my headset is defective and I'm not hearing it.
they try to figure out what is wrong with the machine and talk about where the sound should peak.
1:06:30-1:08:33 Randy mainly
chat about not being that familiar wit the equipment and with the benefits of dat machines and how dat machines can record the high frequencies of bird that other machines can't. Randy says that cds cut out some of the sound that can't be heard by humans but can be heard by birds.
What else would you be interested in doing it for?
Much of the material in the library of natural sounds is accessed by geographic of a repertoire or seasonal variation and may be used in experiments to play back to the same species and observe behavioral changes. It may be analyzed for similarities or differences between geographic shawl we say populations. May be put to uses that we don't know as we're making the recording, so we like to do as little filtering as possible, namely none, when we make the recording and leave that to the user later if they want to filter out low frequencies or high frequencies, let them do it. But we like to capture the original complete spectrum, say up to 20 kilohertz. If we possibly can.
The dat is well geared to that. No compression is used. We advocate that for field recording we should not use automatic gain control or automatic level control; We should not use low frequency rumble filtering, whatever you want to call that. In that way the recordings are hopefully of greater value to subsequent researchers who want to use them.
Can you please tell us some of the birds that we're hearing around this corner.
Obviously the star performer is the marsh wren. We had the common snipe -I was calling a Wilson snipe; That was one of the prior names. We now hear it over head giving that winnowing, that's the mechanical sound produced by the feathers. (winnowing sound) If you could hear that, that was the snipe flying a circular pattern over it's territory and beating it's wings in a stylistic way that (winnowing sound) makes that winnowing sound.
That's not a call, that's the sound of the wings?
That's correct. That's the mechanical sound. Some other mechanical sounds that you may encounter during the week is a woodpecker's drum, particularly resonant branches as, they may be pecking away at the wood to get at insects or for nesting, but they also drum just as a communication mechanism. Some of the galamatious(?) birds, the grouses, may have various mechanical noise as part of their courtship. The ruff grouse of the eastern United States beats its wings rhythmically against the air, called drumming. The sharp tail grouse of the prairies rattles its feather to make a shuffling sound. So there are a number of mechanical sounds as well as vocal. This marsh wren vocal is totally vocal. In the distance we heard the sand toe cranes trumpeting. It sort of fell right in with the cows that were mooing. AT one point I hear a killdeer call. That's one of the shore birds. They cruise throughout North America. We've had a number of ducks flying over and in the Sierra Valley there are cadwalls that give sort of a grunt when they are spooked and scared into flight. Otherwise they are pretty silent. There are mallards in the area, that quack, quack. There are cinnamon tail that give sort of a whistling call. There's a mallard quacking in the distance.
1:13:21-1:13:28 bird calls
I'm trying to recall , oh there's a pair of red-haired ducks on the pond further down the lane that give a call (imitates call) sort of a nasal call. What other birds? Early on I heard one of the endemics that's in the background sound of western movies, the western meadow lark. It's a very audible sound. Frequency wise it's right in the middle of the human hearing. You will find that when you're recording in the prairie environment,, western meadow lark is such a loud singer that frequently it will be in the background of other recordings. Just hear in the distance and American Bittern (imitates sound). That's a vocalization that is, if you can see the bird giving it, it's accompanied by a gulping motion. It's a low frequency sound which means that the equipment that the recordists use needs to be considered. Specifically a shot gun microphone is the appropriate equipment to pick up the low frequencies. The parabolic reflectors don't reflect low frequencies that have longer wave lengths as well as they do the high frequencies. When you get down to the lower frequencies of the American bittern the parabolic reflector is not an effective sound gathering device. So we suggest that those participants that are using parabolic reflectors today concentrate on higher frequency sound like marshrin. And those people that are using shot gun microphones might take advantage of their ability to capture the low frequency sound s and work on things like the crane trumpeting or the bittern pumping.
I just hear chatter hear from a pair of red-wing blackbirds. There are some other blackbirds that are rather unique to the Sierra Valley. The yellow-headed blackbird occurs here. There's one flying as a matter of fact. It did not make any vocalization, but they like the cat tails. There are some cat tails in the distance here and more that are further across the valley. Those sort of have enclaves of yellow headed blackbirds in them. Their vocalization is somewhat reminiscent of somebody in agony choking (imitates). I haven't heard that here, but now that I speak about it I just heard one. I hadn't been consciously hearing them, but hey are often in the cattails. Occasionally in the water leaves we'll hear sounds from the American Coot. The small matt-gray bird that has a water bill. It gives a (imitates) type call. There are pie-bill grebes in the open water. (Randy continues to name birds an talk about their types of calls)
sounds of walking and chat
sounds of walking
ambi birds. There is a really neat bird call at 1:21:34 and 1:21:46
sounds of walking and chat about who would make good interviews.