Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Life changes, birding adapts, #Nocmig begins

With the recent onset of fatherhood I have suddenly found myself more house bound. Less sleep and less ability to get out to the coast means I have had to adjust my birding to what I can do from home. In fact in the last few weeks I have become somewhat obsessed with recording the birds I can see and hear from the confines of my house and garden.

Last year our group of regular pub-going birding friends #Birdclub started up the "Norwich Garden Birds Year-list Challenge", it does what it says on the tin, we would casually note what birds we see from our gardens/houses and keep a yearlist.

This has, of course, escalated, and with the addition of whats'app we are now often sharing up-to-the-minute news on migrants passing over Norwich whilst shivering in our back gardens in our pants at dawn (@Jlowanwildlife), or staring from our upstairs windows with telescopes like well equipped peeping Toms.

So it is now, with my interest peaked at migration over my house, and at the same time with the rise in popularity of a new subsection of the birding community that I have decided to delve into the world of "Nocturnal migration recording" now popularly know as #Nocmig or occasionally #invismig.

What this really means is I get to know what's flying over my house at night without freezing my ass off.

Hopefully, if I keep on top of things you'll be able to keep up my progress.

#Nocmig Startup 

1. Equipment

It's pretty simple really, a digital recorder, a microphone and a computer with Audacity (free software) downloaded. Only days after I bought my equipment @joe_stockwell on twitter made a great video on his blog which would have helped me greatly had it come out earlier. As it happened it confirmed I was doing things right.

Digital Recorder

After asking around I decided on the Zoom H4n. It's not cheap at £172 (+£5.99 for mains adaptor & £7.99 for a 16gb SD card (records 16hrs) ) but after some reading up its what I thought would best do the job for my budget.

Other recommendations came in for:

Olympus LS-12. At £99, a much better entry price but there is no mains power option and when you're leaving it recording for long overnight periods charging AA batteries would get tedious after a while - even more so because according to reviews on amazon the batteries drain while the device is turned off and you have to remove the batteries to stop this.

Roland R-05 - came highly recommended but appears to be unavailable at the moment.

Marantz Professional PMD661MKII - at £425 not an entry level option.

Microphone

As I'm just starting out, testing the waters, I plumped for an unbranded cheap and chearful shotgun directional microphone from ebay. At £16.99 for the microphone, windshield, 7m cable and tripod mount a real bargain. It's very similar in appearance to the Sennheisser ME66 that I've used before, but at a fraction of the price the results from this cheap mic are fantastic without the worry of leaving £500 of equipment outside to be stolen or weather damaged. If I get into this more I might fork out for a Parabolic microphone which should pick out more calls and be clearer.

The microphone I bought has two modes, normal and focussed, I stick it on focussed as recommended by @joe_stockwell. It uses one AA battery (£9 for 4x 2500mAh duracell rechargeables) which I dont know how long will last but it hasn't run out yet (2 nights). I have it set up on a tripod as seen in the photo, though I have it placed under an awning to protect it from rain. The cable then runs in through the back door to the comfort of my sitting room where I have the Zoom H4n plugged in to the mains.

So all in, my setup cost was £212 a fraction of the cost of a new lens for a camera for example.

Software

Download Audacity, it's free. I wont go into any detail on software as @joe_stockwell 's video on his blog more than covers the basics.

I sometimes also use Raven Lite, to make prettier spectrograms if I want to publish them, or make them clearer.

Many thanks to @joe_stockwell@birdbrainuk and @sconebirding among others for their advice in equipment and setup.




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