Many birders have been weened on books where the bird’s image and appearance has been the main/only means of identification. For the birds themselves, recognition is arguably much more frequently done through the sounds they make. This frontier is a wonderful place for discovery and exploration. Here’s a taster of some recently recorded sounds that have interested me from ID point or I just find evocative. There’s also a couple of mystery birds if you want to have a go 🙂
Siberian Lesser Whitethroat, blythi
The Lesser Whitethroat complex: If it only boils down to DNA when identifying vagrant Lesser Whitethroats from Siberian, central and Eastern Asia, then rightly, birders should switch off. Thankfully it doesn’t. Subtle structural and plumage differences mark out certain individuals, but also calls can point to getting the identifications sorted. I was much chuffed to see and hear the Lesser Whitethroat below give both ‘tac’ and rattle calls (like Spectacled Warbler). Plumage and sound said blythi. DNA confirmed it!
This Siberian Lesser Whitethroat was present in South Mainland, Shetland in Sept/Oct 2013. It gave both typical ‘tac’ calls, like W European birds and an obvious rattle call, just like the sound recorded in Eilat, Israel below, together with ambient cafe music.
Caucasian Water Pipit, coutelli
Here’s a subject that fascinated me since Brian Small indicated these sound different to his ears. I agree, they really do. I have recorded several ‘coutelli’ on 3 recent visits to Israel. Raspy and generally distinctive I think. Have a listen and look at that sonagram shape.
Water Pipit ‘coutelli’, Mount Hermon, Israel 15th Nov 2013. Martin Garner
Common Crossbill. Type ??
Can you help? One of the Common Crossbills recorded at Broomhead, S. Yorks on 13th Dec. 2013 with background twitcher chatter. I had a quick look but couldn’t assign it easily to one of the several ‘Common Crossbill types’. What do you think?
Two-barred Crossbills – trumpeting
And if Crossbill types doesn’t float your boat; the sounds of Two-barred Crossbills should at least! First recording, a flock of at least five chattering to each other as they feed, then a recording of more sustained ‘meep meeps’. Distinctive enough.
What was that? That’s a frequent comment coming from my lips. So many sounds I am still learning. This one was from a small bird (warbler sized) in Tamarisk at Ma’agan Michael, Israel on 15th Nov. 2013. I never got a proper look at it and couldn’t put the sound to a name. Happy to look a fool. What species was it? Comments very welcome!
British Storm Petrel
It doesn’t have to be all about ID. Some sounds are just worth hearing for themsleves. Here British Storm Petrels on Mousa, Shetland in May 2013. Famously described as: “The sound of a fairy being sick.”
Are they all the same? With more than one taxa of Graceful Prinias these invite further study. Plumages are not massively different. What secrets do calls and song hold?
Graceful Prinia, Jerusalem Bird obs. Israel, Nov. 2012
- akyildizi Watson, 1961 – S Turkey, possibly into NW Syria.
- palaestinae Zedlitz, 1911 – Lebanon, S Syria, E Israel, Jordan and NW Saudi Arabia.
- deltae Reichenow, 1904 – W Israel S to N Egypt (R Nile delta).
Italian and Maltese Sparrows
A recent and former claims of potential Italian Sparrows in Britain seem not to have majored on recording sounds. If Italian Sparrow then I wonder if we should expect some Spanish Sparrow type notes – and if hybrid House/Tree then some Tree Sparrow like notes. Best interpreted/ confirmed with use of sonagram. I don’t know about Italian repertoire but Maltese Sparrows on Linosa, Italy recorded in November 2011 include Spanish Sparrow type calls. Roy Slaterus, who found the first confirmed female Spanish in NW Europe commented on these calls. Might include more details on what to listen for in future post. Here’s a brief look and listen.
Male Maltese Sparow ‘maltae’ Linosa, Italy, Nov. 2011. Miki Vigiano.
Desert Grey Shrike
See this post on Asian and Desert Grey Shrikes. Sounds surely hold some unexplored revelations when it comes to the various groups of grey shrikes. This is a vagrant bird in its first autumn, still stirred up to give a bit of song.
Southern/ Desert Grey Shrike, Linosa (Italy), November 2011. Igor Maiorano. Have a listen to this guys sounds below.