Tuesday 25 March 2008

"Do You Remembird When We Met" ?

This might be of interest to potential budget sound recordists, a quick appraisal of the Remembird Sound Recorder. My review will generally appraise it's suitability for what I do, namely crossbills, for a more comprehensive review see THIS one at the WSRS pages.

I primarily bought mine after hearing a recording of some crossbills from a Dutch poster on Bird Forum. The idea was that I would attach it to my bins on days when I didn't fancy lugging heavier sound recorders and more obtrusive microphones. In practice it is the missus who now 'owns' it, which is fine by me as I now get recordings from her day trips when I am working !


The main advantage is that the unit is small and 'covert'. A pet hate of mine when I am out is constantly being asked "what are you tracking" ? My answers have ranged from radio tagged Brown Bears that have been re-introduced through to measuring the timing of pine cones opening by listening for them 'crack'. It may seem a bit mean, but it really does wear you down when you are repeatedly asked the same question over and over by people who are not really interested but rather who's 'noses are bothering them'. Thankfully, this is only bad at a couple of locations and even then only when I am on the paths. I should add that I always give people a "hello" or "nice day", I just don't want to give my life story.

Another thing that is quite impressive is the software interface, which is well designed and written and allows one to catalogue all the recordings and even add comments.

Attaching to bins it works best on my EL 8.5's - the unit sits unobtrusively between the barrels and does not impede the thumb rests. Not so good on my 10 x 42 Ultravids though. The wife prefers to use the little carry strap.

Perhaps the biggest advantage is the cost. Mine was £199 which I considered good value given the product, well produced software and the quality. They are now £150 direct from the manufacturer which has to be a great incentive for the first time recordist ?


You really need to be close to the subject, even in good conditions. How close ? Well in the tree right above you or next to you would be good. As the WSRS review states wind is problematic, but then what do you expect for the money ?

I found a potential problem with using external MMC cards with my first unit. At the highest quality setting of 320 kps a pulsing noise was evident ( sounded like a helicopter). The owner of Remembird relplied to my email enquiry immediately and sent a replacement unit - great customer service. The replacement unit was better but the anomaly was still present albeit to a lesser degree when using 512 and 1 gig MMC cards. If the cards are not used and the 32 meg internal storage is used the anomaly is not audible though a trace of an artifact can sometimes be seen around 11 kHz on a sonogram. On best quality you will get approx 12 minutes recording on the 32 meg internal memory, more than enough for calls though possibly not song in a typical day trip. My suggestion if you think you need more storage is to contact Remembird and ask what MMC cards they recommend and record on the second highest setting as per the WSRS reviewer.

The exported audio (MP3) files from the program are very quiet but this can be remedied by gain boosting in a third party audio program. I use MP3 Directcut as recommended by the WSRS review, and generally boost by around 15dB to get satisfactory levels.


Well, yes, for the dosh it is actually pretty good. Here are a couple of sonograms from recordings that my missus made with it:

And the flight calls from the same group:

As can be seen both calls are clearly identifiable in the sonograms ( in this case EcB and Fc1, so a 1B type ). For those who prefer to listen HERE is the Ec's exported as MP3's and gain boosted by +22 dB's. These were made in good conditions and you can still here a bit of wind rumble.

So, in a nutshell if it can be used for Crossbills then should be no bother nailing that Ibe or Sibe Chiff, if you are close enough !

In the spirit of blogs being interactive (apparently!) a bonus point for music buffs that can connect the post title to Led Zeppelin..............it's a toughie.

Friday 21 March 2008

More Crossbills ? Get Stuffed !

At the risk of being accused of following the bizzare trend of exhibiting various dead things as seen on other blogs here is a 'curiousity' :

Found this on a random Taxidermy site whilst googling 'Scottish Crossbill'. Not sure if they are scotica, but a very realistic 'composition'. Personally, I prefer to see them flying around, but I suppose in the 19th century and early 20th this sort of 'collecting' was the norm.

There is a similar 'study' of a bird shot near Aboyne in the 1800's that is a good candidate for scotica. I will see if I can find it. ( UPDATE: I am struggling to find it again )

Meantime, here is an interesting specimen shot at Drumnadrochit ( great name):

In the absence of biometrics it is difficult to say what he is, but I could easily accept 'Parrot' type based on birds I have seen and handled. However, it could be a small bodied bird with an apparently big bill, so a tough one. Will try to find the details on this one too.

UPDATE. Here are the details:

Adult male, 2nd winter male, adult female & 1st winter female, 6 Dec 1925 (two), 6 Dec 1924 & 6 Dec 1925, Drumnadrochit (57°20'N, 04°30'W), Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom.

So 4 birds shot in total. The location is not typical 'parrot' but given the month of the year they were shot it is possible that they were migrants, however over two successive years hints at a population. Possibly Scottish afterall.

Told you ( in a now hacker deleted previous post) that Boleskine House would have mad a fantastic base for crossbilling !

Thursday 20 March 2008


A couple of pics that unfortunately didn't make it in to BOS3, instead mainly putative examples being used ( the main pic of the 'Parrot' Crossbill in Vol.2 p.1433 is particularly dubious, and it seems I am not alone in this assertion). Could even be a Common Crossbill ! Here's a real Parrot:

And Again:

The above bird was caught, ringed, measured and sound recorded as a Parrot Crossbill and then photographed 'wild' six months later. It is not a 'possible' or 'probable'. The bird in the "Pinemuncher" Avatar to the side is the same individual. Digiscoped incase you need to know. Maybe not a great a photo, but then there were other not great photo's in BOS3.

Also, does anyone see the point of the nine crossbill profiles in the hand (p.1435), given the specimens chosen ? Is it just me or is that token ? Does it show, as claimed, "variation of bill shapes and sizes through the three species" ? I think not. They certainly don't demonstrate the variation of these charateristics within the species. The first 'Scottish' in line two looks Common and the bill is not typical of scotica. If that was the point of putting it in then fair enough. The furthest right bird in line two doesn't have the lower mandible tip showing ( the only one !) and is thus unhelpful. I feel it would have been more helpful to show a range of Scottish bill sizes, which seems to occur, rather than pick three birds close to the overlap with Common Crossbill. What the nine pics show is that Scottish Crossbill can have the most variation in bill shape at a similar size. Is this the case ? How do we know a bird at 11.0mm is actually a Scottish Crossbill ? On bill shape, plumage, where it was caught, its call (not done I am afraid) ?

From the Commons are we to take it that over their typical size range given as 9.5mm, 10.0mm and 10.6mm that their bill shape is pretty much the same ? This is not my experience, but again I don't know what these photos are meant to be showing.

The three Parrots all look identical and two are the exact same size ! There was an opportunity to show the structural differences with this species that was not taken, essentially 'Parrot' type birds at just over 12.0 ish mm which occur readily in Scotland. I would also add that only sound recordings were made for the furthest left and right Parrots - none at all for the Scottish and Commons. I supplied birds with biometric data and call data (like the one for my only photo - there were originally 4 or 5 of my pics ! ). This was all stated in communications from me but clearly fell on deaf ears as I have apparently only been working on crossbills for 5 minutes. Actually, it's been 5 years CONSTANT, but never mind I will bear it in mind the next time I am asked 'to help'. I don't really see the point of confusing birders further, especially when alternatives were available. I should add that it was not the authors choice either AFAIK.

Had to get it off my chest - the amount of work I did for it (during my holiday) and the resulting decisions and attitudes of certain individuals really surprised me to be frank. I don't really care that my pics were passed over, just a shame that the job, IMO, could have been done much better and been potentially more helpful to birders. Way too many politics going on regarding crossbills if you ask me........... never !

And if those 'that be' so to speak are offended and don't like what I am saying there is an old saying: "publish and be damned". I guess you've just been damned, by me at least. I bought my copy of BOS3 and I am entitled to my opinion just like anyone else. On the whole it is an absolutely fantastic publication.

Right, stuff these crossbills, off to study Chelonia and become yet another 5 minute amatuer.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Memoirs, Moi ? Shurely Not Mish Monneypenny..

I don't know what is more staggering - that someone would be interested in my (abridged) memoirs, my 'eternal life' if you like, or that someone would read this blog ! That said there are a lotta wanabee crossbill 'experts' out there.... dream brothers, of a time when we know what the hell we are talking about.

As to my six word memoir, with total lack of grace, hows about:

"Don't Waste Time Playing Meaningless Games " ! ( alas, something in life I have failed to observe and often fallen foul of......PhD anyone ?)

or, perhaps more appropriately:

"Don't Study Crossbills They Are *****"

or, even more appropriately:

"People who study Crossbills are *****"

As to 5 other Bloggers, 'fraid I don't know that amount, the 'unpopular' chap that I am. I ain't got no mojo pin with folks I am afraid.

Anyway, back to all things Crossbills....and not.

It may come as a shock to readers that my crossbill work is now nearly tied up and that soon I will be embarking on a long term desk based study on the classification of Mediterranean Chelonia, something far closer to my heart, but equally challenging all the same. However, don't worry I can assure you this won't be the last goodbye.

As David Coverdale used to say " 'ere's a song for yuh" just before "Wine, Women and Song", the wine of course being lialic wine:

I am not going to give the corresponding Ec of this individual as, well frankly, it will quite possibly scare small children and anyone with an interest in crossbills and their calls..... er that's about 6 people then. These, along with other scandals, will be published in the real memoirs. And believe me they will be so real -lover you should have come over ( you know who you are).

Topically, being nearly Good Friday and having just watched "The Passion", I feel curiously moved ( for an atheist) and feel myself humming Benjamin Britten's haunting setting of Corpus Christi Carol. Oh, well.

One final thought: that Jeff Buckley fellow was pretty good wasn't he ? Meaningless games -who said I didn't like them ?