I’m not a multitasker, I never have been. But when thinking about birding, the desire to be able to both record birdsong and photograph birds on the same trip is very alluring.
The last time I recorded at the park, I had the recorder in one hand and the microphone in the other, the…entire…time… The only exception to this was when I finagled things into one arm while adding birds to my checklist.
This obviously wasn’t going to be a viable method if I also wanted to bring my camera. So, I decided to attach a lanyard to the recorder and free up one hand. With this less burdensome setup, I arrived at the park at 6:50 AM just as the sun was rising, ready for anything.
A pair of chattering Bewick’s Wrens – an audio lifer
The weather was partly cloudy and a chorus of wildlife could be heard from the parking lot.
With the camera on my shoulder and the recorder around my neck, I glanced around at my surroundings. A dimly-lit trail, many trees, and vast open fields lay in view.
I fired up the eBird app to begin my tracking and noticed two chattering birds in a tree nearby. I slowly made my way over there while using Merlin to help identify these birds. It identified them as Bewick’s Wrens. A quick look through my camera and referring to some reference images confirmed them.
With my shotgun microphone in hand, I began recording and captured their chatter.
The light was really low at this moment and my camera lens was fogged due to the humidity and temperature change. Without my microphone, I would have missed out on capturing this small experience.
Heading toward the river, I was greeted with the usual cast of characters: Purple Martins, Mourning Doves, Barn Swallows, Cardinals, and House Finches.
A House Finch or something else?
It wasn’t until I got to the the river that I started to pick up some interesting bird songs on Merlin. What I thought were the sounds of a House Finch turned out to be the song of the Painted Bunting. The song was obscured by distance and the sounds of other birds, but it was repeatedly being identified in real-time in Merlin as its song continued.
I pressed onward down the trail until I was able to hear it clearly without much distraction and aimed my microphone for a recording.
Tiny onlooker from above
Futher down the river, Merlin (I was running it almost constantly as I walked along) identified a Black-crested Titmouse directly above me in the branches. It stuck around enough for me to get a short recording of its song.
Calling, calling…but to whom?
The song of the Carolina Wren is an omnipresent sound near the river. It’s beautiful but it’s easy for it to become noise in recordings of other birds.
After reaching one end of the path, I turned around and started to head toward the other end. A bird was calling from the bushes as I began backtracking. Verifying with my eyes, I confirmed it was another Carolina Wren making its generic call to anyone who would listen.
A cuckoo with breakfast
The natural light had improved by this time and something caught my eye. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo sat on a branch with what looked like a caterpillar in its mouth. The first proper photo opportunity of the day necessitated I hook the handle of the microphone into my lanyard to secure it while I used my camera to snap this photo.
Second appearance of the Bewick’s Wren
Shortly after the encounter with the cuckoo, another bird was spotted jumping around in the trees opposite of the river. I got some photos of it, but was unable to identify it in the moment. A Bewick’s Wren was found in my photos. It’s not the best photo but it’s my first time capturing it.
As I backtracked I saw a familiar face down the path. My fiancé surprised me by showing up to the park. Glad to see him, we continued our walk and enjoyed the early morning weather.
Knowing it’s hard to record when there’s the pressure of keeping up with someone else and the potential noise that comes with it, I had to choose my final subjects carefully.
A loud Northern Cardinal just off the path sang loudly, providing an excellent opportunity to capture its spaceship laser song.
A new personal best species count
As I’ve been familiarizing myself with the park over the last few visits, it’s always fun to see if I can break my previous record for variety of species seen in a single visit. It’s the dog days of summer but I was still able to see a total of 19 species. I can’t wait to see what fall migration will bring to this park.
If you’re going to try recording and photographing on the same trip
Make sure to have a good way to carry or store equipment. The more taxing it is to lug around your equipment the faster you’ll burn out and the easier it will be to miss a quick opportunity to capture something.
I’ve been setting my sights on a parabolic microphone setup. There is one vendor who makes one with that’s compatible with a shoulder strap and provides direct attachment to a recorder. This setup sounds like an ideal way to get killer recordings and keep your hands free when doing other things.