Wild Bird Photography by Steve Oakes

Digital Sound Recording Equipment

A few years ago I met a man who had spent a large part of his life travelling the world and recording bird songs digitally. He must have had recordings of most of the birds of Europe! I have to admit that I felt a little jealous of the amount of time he must of had to spend on this but, at the same time, I felt inspired to have a go at recording some of my own sounds. I have not yet taken this up in earnest but intend to do so starting in the coming spring (2012).

Eridol R09 If you plan to do recording you need some basic equipment. First of all you need a digital recorder. I opted for the Eridol R09HR shown in the image on the right. This is a sophisticated piece of kit that allows you to make exceptional digital recordings and yet it is small enough to fit in your pocket. The controls allow you to record in stereo or mono, with full control over the recording level. It records on to standard SD digital media (as shown) but if you are recording for a whole day you can fill it up so best to carry a spare or two. Obviously larger capacity SD cards will allow you to record more. You should also carry some spare batteries as it uses up 4xAA batteries pretty quickly.

It comes with two built in microphones at each side of the top of the device but these built in mics are limited in quality and for a really clean recording I advise that you get a quality separate microphone. Luckily there is a jack point for connecting an external microphone.

Sennheiser ME66 Shotgun Microphone The best microphone for wildlife recording is a shotgun microphone. This picks up sound predominantly from the direction it is pointed rather than from all directions. After much research I came to the conclusion that the Sennheiser ME66 (shown on the left) met my needs perfectly. It's about a foot long (30cm) and thin. It takes a single AA battery and has a simple on/off switch. Of course, the mic needs a few other bits of equipment to be of use.

Sennheiser ME66 Shotgun Mic with softie, cable and camera mount First of all you need a short cable with a standard microphone socket at one end and an appropriate sized jack plug at the other, for connecting to the recorder. Mine uses a 5mm plug. Also for outdoor recording you need something to reduce the noise that the wind produces that can spoil your recordings. This is accomplished by use of a 'softie'. This is a fur covered sleeve that fits over the microphone. It won't eliminate wind noise completely, especially if the wind is strong, but it will reduce it somewhat. Lastly, you need a device to support the microphone. If you are only recording and not taking photographs, you can use the microphone hand held or, better still, in a pistol-grip device. When I'm doing photography, I use a device that allows me to fit the microphone to the top of the camera. You have to mount it at 90 degrees to the lens, so that you can still use the view-finder, and rotate the camera on the tripod when switching from photography to sound recording. That is, so that either lens or the mic is pointing to your subject. On the right is a picture of this full kit. Well almost. You will also need some headphones but any cheap set that come with an MP3 player will do. I use the ones that came with my iPhone.

Of course, this piece of kit also comes in handy if you are using a digital SLR camera that is capable of digital video recording such as the EOS 7D. By attaching the microphone to the cameras hot shoe and plugging the microphone into the cameras mic jack plug, you can enhance the sound quality of your videos over the sound that can be achieved with the cameras built in microphone. In video mode you don't need to worry about not being able to use the view-finder as the mirror is locked-up and you use the cameras 'live view' mode.

One final piece of equipment that you will need is some audio editing software. I use Goldwave. It is fairly inexpensive and does everything I want to do, which is basically cutting out the bits I don't want. You can download it on a free trial from http://www.goldwave.com/release.php. There are other audio editing software products. Some can be hundreds of pounds. So have a look around and see what suites you best. Most allow you a free trial period so check out what suits your needs the most and what you find easiest to work with.

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