Strange bird song

LochoftheLowes bird song.m4a

Hi

I was watching an Osprey from the Loch of the Lowes webcam in Scotland yesterday and I heard a really unusual bird song that I didn't recognise. I went back later that day and recorded it from the live feed (which lasts for about 12h) and I wonder if anyone can help me with this one. I'm pretty sure it isn't a Song Thrush - certainly not like any I've ever heard before. And the only other possibility I can think of is a bird that shouldn't be so far north. Sorry no image of the bird as it was somewhere off camera but the audio recording isn't bad.

Thanks

  • Hi Sean,

    I must admit that I was a bit sceptical of the quality of the recording you obtained from a webcam (no offence). So I went to the Loch of the Lowes webcam and scrolled back a few hours and I did hear the songs that you picked up albeit much fainter. I guess you did some audio editing to amplify the sound and clean up the background. It does sound pretty dramatic and no I don't think it's a Nightingale if that's what you had in mind.

    I'm not confident about this but it (they) could be Red(Common) Crossbills or even Scottish Crossbills. Have a listen to this recording from xeno-canto to see what you think. 

    Eetu Paljakka, XC539658. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/539658

    At least it would be consistent with the habitat.

    ____________________________________________________________________

    Regards,Tony

    My Flickr Photostream 

  • Thanks Tony. Recording was made by holding my aged iPhone SE to the speaker of my laptop - no editing involved - you can probably hear the whirring of my laptop fan. The song was pretty striking (which is what brought my attention to it in the first place) and so I can only assume it was relatively close to the Osprey webcam mircophone (I've no idea of the arrangement there at the Loch of the Lowes). As you say a Nightingale seems highly unlikely given where it is and the time of year, and certainly the habitat is much more likely to attract Crossbills. However I've seen and listened to Crossbills and Scottish Crossbills often before and I don't think this is what is on the recording which is much more varied, explosive, bubbling and melodic. Perhaps it is just a Song Thrush with particularly good karaoke skills!
    Thanks again for taking the time to listen and get back to me.

    Sean
  • Oh well, I tried. Perhaps you could message the Scottish Wildlife Trust direct and see what they say. As you say it's quite an unusual song.

    ____________________________________________________________________

    Regards,Tony

    My Flickr Photostream 

  • Several of us reckon that this is a Thrush Nightingale, alias Sprosser. Widespread in W Europe and Scandinavia, but a rare visitor to Scotland and then mostly near east coast. There are lots or recordings online and it's clearly a fine songster with a varied repertoire. Against this ID are rarity and habitat: apparently these birds prefer deciduous scrub.
    But if not a thrush nightingale, then what?

    There is also what seems to be a different bird audible on the Lowes webcam. A bubbly, gurgling sort of sound that ranges from a mutter to a declamation rising to quite a screech; quite a weird sound. Does anyone know what that is?

    Both these have been singing well around 0600h; also around 1800h and clearly audible on the Loch of the Lowes osprey webcam feed

    HenryM
  • In reply to HenryM:

    Thanks very much HenryM. I've listened to some online recordings now of a Thrush Nightingale and it does sound very, very similar. At the time of my original post I did think the nearest song I could hear that was similar was a Nightingale but I didn't think that was possible given the location and habitat. Though I did think that early April was a time when migrating birds are on the move and it could have been a scarce migrant. I've emailed the ranger at the Loch of the Lowes but haven't heard back yet. Do you think it is worth notifying the local BTO recorder of this possible 'sighting' (given that it hasn't actually been seen)?
  • In reply to SeanSemple:

    Interesting to hear what the ranger has to say. I still feel wary about this ID on the grounds I mentioned.

    Henry
  • In reply to HenryM:

    Thanks Henry. The ranger replied today and seems to suggest that the strange song has an alternative explanation related to microphone distortion. She writes: "This call is one we have heard quite regularly (in fact it’s there again now – 13:36 on 16.04.20), as a team we have had many debates over which species it is. The two strongest candidates have been Wren and Siskin. When the call is picked up by the microphone it gets distorted, and sometimes slowed down. The distortion gives it this “bubbling” sound and it also often appears more robotic. We have been listening carefully to the specific notes within the call to determine the species. Personally, I think this one in particular is the wren due to the “trilling”. Of course without seeing it I can not be 100% sure. We have tried turning the camera around to see if we could see it, but unfortunately no look so far. The new microphone is extremely sensitive and sounds which are quite far away sound very close. For example, the pheasant sounds like it is sat on the nest rather on the woodland floor."

    I've had a listen again and I can hear lots of other common birds in the background that seem to be at normal speed/audio so I don't know why the wren song would be so distorted in this manner - perhaps it is very close to microphone and the explosive/high frequency song causes particular problems for the microphone. As you say, a Thrush Nightingale in this habitat in Scotland seems unlikely.

    Sean
  • In reply to SeanSemple:

    Well, I can imagine that if any song could cause trouble for a microphone it might be a wren's. If this is right the drop in pitch is considerable. The result does not sound 'distorted', but rather magically transformed. I had no idea a microphone might do anything like this.

    I wonder how far the bird would have to move from the microphone to be heard at normal pitch.

    Henry
  • hi Sean,

    If you see this in time to scroll back to just before 0800h this morning (Sat 18/4) the mystery bird does turn out to be a wren, as the ranger suggested. He is on the nest and quite clearly uttering the song! I am amazed.

    Henry
  • In reply to HenryM:

    Hi Henry
    Thanks for sending this on. Just had a look at this time slot - wonderful to have the mystery solved! I'm amazed too. Not sure I understand the acoustics and physics of how a microphone converts a wren song to the notes we're hearing but that's for another day. Thanks again for all your help in identifying this audio clip. In terms of the webcam itself I haven't seen either of the ospreys on the nest for the past 2-3 days.
    Cheers
    Sean