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Planet Earth Under Threat

Have a listen to these lovely songbirds…………..

  • Grant Sonnex
  • 4 Jun 07, 04:46 PM

minsmere.jpg
Thought you might like the chance to hear some of the bird recordings that we made at the RSPB's Minsmere reserve in Suffolk for the Nature Spring Songbird Special. We were trying to record in early May when the birdsong was at its peak but we got hit by all that rain and the first three possible recording dates were a complete washout. We had only one chance left and had to go with whatever birds and weather were around that morning. I think it was May 18th. But thankfully we were incredibly lucky. When we got up at 3 a.m. the air was still, the rain had gone, and in the distance I could already hear a Nightingale singing.

The Minsmere reserve is a dream for recording so long as you get there before the people and the traffic, and on the east side of the country you don't get the early-morning jets heading for America as you do where I live in the West. So it was blissfully quiet and I was thrilled when we managed to get close enough to a Nightingale to get this recording --

(Download these recordings to your mp3 player. PC users should right-click the download icon and select 'Save Target As...' to download a file. Mac users should press 'Control' and click. If it says "file not found" try a different sound or try a bit later. It is a popular service and sometimes the server just can't cope. Worth persisting though :-))

Audio clip Nightingale

Beatrice and I from the Natural History Unit Radio team were doing the recordings and Adam Rowlands from the RSPB and Mark Grantham from the British Trust for Ornithology were our guides. The plan was to concentrate on the migrant birds since you can't hope to squeeze everything into a half-hour programme. Here's a fantastic blackcap that Beatrice recorded that we couldn't fit in, so it's lovely to give it an airing here.

Audio clip blackcap

Although this bird would have arrived from the south to sing here in the Spring and will go back again in the autumn, over the last 15 years or so we've been getting increasing numbers of blackcaps coming here from Germany to spend their winters. So we are a summer home for one blackcap population, and a winter home for another. Most of the migrant warblers that come here from south of the Sahara were singing amongst the brambles and hawthorns in the scrubby area between the woodland on the reed beds. Here are a few of them

Audio clip white throat

Audio clip Willow warbler

Audio clip chiffchaff

We were also trying to find a singing garden warbler, but were unlucky. We'll put that on the list for next year. This turtle dove, though, was a real treat. He comes here via a more easterly route through the Mediterranean, island hopping. Unfortunately, Mark Grantham told us, lots of them get shot by bird hunters on the way.

Audio clip turtledove

By now the sun was fully up and it wasn't even 6 a.m. and we still had time to record to the fantastic reed warblers and sedge warblers before the dawn chorus started dying down.

Audio clip Reed warbler

Audio clip sedge warbler

Hope you like the clips. Whenever I drag myself out of bed early enough to do this kind of thing I always wonder why I don't do it more often. If you never have, I thoroughly recommend it.

You can hear the whole programme at the BBC Radio 4 Nature website

And on June 11th at 9 p.m. immediately after the television Springwatch transmission we've got a programme to answer your questions about any aspect of spring wildlife. So please do e-mail us at nhuradio@bbc.co.uk

Some more birdsong can be heard here

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 09:28 PM on 04 Jun 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

"File does not exist? - this is what i get when I try to download the clips.
Any answers?

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  • 2.
  • At 09:47 PM on 04 Jun 2007,
  • Mac wrote:

Agree with Mike. File does not exist.

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  • 3.
  • At 09:57 PM on 04 Jun 2007,
  • JACK wrote:

Worked fine for me from about 21.40 . . . try again the Nightingale is worth it alone. Thanks for a lovely piece of broadcasting! I particularly enjoyed the sections with just birdsong, though the commentary was of course good too!

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  • 4.
  • At 07:19 AM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Stevie wrote:

What equipment was used to make the recordings?
Also Nightingale downloaded ok but none of the others.

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  • 5.
  • At 07:59 AM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Grant Sonnex wrote:

Sorry about the download problem, folks. It's just that the server can't always cope with the demand. Try a different clip or try a bit later -- I think you'll find it worthwhile.

Stevie -- I was using a parabolic reflector to get the really big close-up recordings. You can see it in the photo at the top. It basically acts like an enormous torch in reverse. Whereas in the torch the light from a small bulb bounces off the reflective surface and an out into a wide beam, the parabolic reflector -- which is a plastic dish about 80 cm across -- reflects all the sound that it collects to a small point at its centre, and that's where the microphone sits. It's great for birdsong but doesn't work so well for deeper sounds. That then gets recorded onto flashcard-based audio recorder. And then we makes it with the speech recording background sound recordings in the studio. Hope that's what you wanted to know.

Grant

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  • 6.
  • At 08:13 AM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Joe Underwood wrote:

Yet another excellent programme by the radio four nature team. Heaven for the birder!

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  • 7.
  • At 11:40 AM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Peter Sutton wrote:

Grant - thank you so much for a really fascinating programme. I live in a 400 acre SSSI woodland but I am rubbish at warbler song recognition so this was absolutely spot on for me!!

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  • 8.
  • At 09:33 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Jo wrote:

Having listened to your lovely programme about birdsong, today 5th June, just thought I would let you know that I have a pair of beautiful Bull Finches in my garden here in Suffolk. One of your presenters mentioned that he had not seen any this year and that they are rare.

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  • 9.
  • At 08:59 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Joe Underwood wrote:

Jo, Bullfinch has actually become very rare. It is on the red list of birds meaning it has declined over 50% in the last 25 years and is a high priority species. Do you know if they are breeding? And have you thought about telling your local bird recorder?

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  • 10.
  • At 03:12 PM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • ANNETTE BROWN wrote:

What a joy, forget television, audio alone gives such a sense of 'the moment' and with bundles of atmosphere. A most enjoyable and informative programme - Thankyou.

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  • 11.
  • At 07:12 PM on 07 Jun 2007,
  • Brigitte Girling wrote:

A beautiful programme - as a direct result I was able to identify what I had long suspected was a nightingale in my garden in Suffolk - I was thrilled!

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  • 12.
  • At 10:47 PM on 07 Jun 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

Files do exist now.

Thanks for a wonderful programme and an excellent recording.

Keep up the good work.

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Hi,
We have a hornet starting to build a nest in our shed where we store ground cellulose fibre. Is she using our fibre or producing her own and will her offspring become aggressive once the nest is up and running? We do not want to move her on as hornets are endangered but we do need to sell the cellulose.

Regards Michael

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  • 14.
  • At 11:16 AM on 11 Jun 2007,
  • Lena McCann wrote:

Looked out my kitchen window this morning to see a sparrow feeding her young from seed on the ground. She was pooping the food into the little one's mouth The mother then went to the feeder took some feed from the nut feeder and fed it to the little sparrow on the ground. A lovely spectacle first thing in the morning especially in your own garden! All the nicer also to see in real life rather than on TV.

Regards

Lena McCann

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Hi

The Nature Progs are a joy - well done. Is the Dawn Chorus prog still available as I could not see it on the web site list?

Thanks

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  • 16.
  • At 12:18 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Grant Sonnex wrote:

Richard -- about your hornets. It's a fascinating question and I don't know the answer. You could try asking the people at But Life:
http://www.buglife.org.uk/

Peter -- I'm trying to find out where the program listen again feature has gone

Grant

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  • 17.
  • At 09:24 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • poshsussex wrote:

I know it was over 2 weeks since the Radio 4 Dawn Chorus broad -cast, but have only just got my computor repaired. It was really wonderful listening (and still listening on my DVD recording of it), and really got the atmosphere and excitement of the birds at Minsmere, especially the Turtle Doves ! However , it is sad about the Whitethroats being few and far between this year for reasons mentioned in the Sahel of Africa, and I do think Nightingales are declining fast in the south of UK, but are thriving on the continent. why is this ?, and will climate change alter the range of this bird and other migrants ?.

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  • 18.
  • At 11:50 AM on 18 Jun 2007,
  • Grant Sonnex wrote:

poshsussex -- glad you caught up with the program. Just briefly in response to your questions -- I think climate change is likely to change everything to do with migration in small and large ways. The range of nightingales has been changing for some years now, retreating towards the south east. One of the suggestions I have broadcast in the past is that there is less and less suitable scrub habitat. But I don't understand why that should cause this retreat rather than just a general decline in numbers. My understanding from this programme about white throats was that they are still increasing in number after that late 1960s crash. So that's good!

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Just listened to Mike Scott at Lakenheath Fen reserve talking about the sighting of the Common Cranes - so envious! The dialogue about turning the tide of decline,wetland reclaimation and the real spiritual value of putting wildlife back into the countryside goes straight to the heart. Our cherished wildlife haven at Roswell Pits in Ely, natural habitat to marsh harriers, Kingfishers, Snipe and the bittern is about to be developed as a Long Boat Marina by its new owner.The local community is doing its best to prevent this from happening.

Regards
Gaynor LCPRE
(Local Campaigners for the Protection of Rural Ely)

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  • 20.
  • At 10:10 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Tom Campbell wrote:

I'd like to hear a programme about Blackbirds as mimics. A couple of years ago I worked from home in Houghton Regis in Bedfordshire. The garden boundary was an old field hedge and so it got a lot of traffic from everything from Long Tailed Tits to Spotted Wood Peckers. The one memory from that time though was the Blackbird. In it's song it incorporated reversing Garbage Lorries, the theme from First Encounters of the Third Kind and the first two bars from Michael Jackson's Moonwalk. In addition I heard a Chaffinch, a Song Thrush and a drawn-out whistle that I only identified later as the neighbor's dog whistle. Look, this wasn't a Starling it was a cock Blackbird and I watched it as it sang. So over to you Bristol!

Best regards, Tom Campbell.

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