Tape that Bird Song!
by Connect Staff
How can we best study bird songs?
Another option is to tape the calls for later use in the classroom and elsewhere. When students tape natural sounds, they will not get the perfect volume and uncluttered sound of a professional recording, but they will record the ambient sound that is around them at that moment. What other sounds are there to pick out in the recording? And how does that bird call compare to the professional recording you may have? Or is there a variation that might be interesting to note?
To tape birdcalls well, you need a tape recorder that has an external microphone. You can simply aim the microphone in the direction of a call, but you can obtain better results by using a parabolic reflector to bounce the sound (and concentrate it) towards your microphone.
Students can build another version that uses a microphone mounted on a tripod with a parabolic reflector. Whatever your design, test it for the best microphone position. When you tape, be as quiet as possible. Record on tape or on paper the location of the taping, along with time, date and weather conditions. Would a tape made at the same place and time, but a month later, sound different?
There is another amazing level to this kind of investigation if you digitize the sound so that you can look at the sound patterns on a computer screen. Then you can see differences in calls (through graphical representations of the sound waves) as well as play back any call on demand.
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