Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Seeing the Song

Those of you that know me well will no doubt be aware that I suffer from a hereditary condition called Tinnitus, basically a permanent ringing in my right ear and a significant amount of hearing loss to boot. It makes locating birds on call very difficult as I'm often unable to detect the location the call is coming from and end up spinning around with a hand cupped to my good ear to try and discern the point at which the call/song is loudest.

For me 'silent spring' is all too much a future reality as it is likely that at some point my good ear will go the same way and I'll need hearing aids just to join in with the bitching and moaning good natured banter that is such a feature of local birding.

I share this little nugget of personal discomfort not in search of sympathy but in order to highlight a great birding site that I came across a few weeks back called Earbirding.com. A US site, Earbirding is the product of two US based birders Nathan Pieplow and Andrew Spencer, both of whom are obviously passionate about their chosen subject. Whilst many of the recordings are of yank birds, their posts are interesting and illuminating. For anyone interested in vocalisations as a key to identification and/or recording bird calls and songs, their site is a great resource. I found the section explaining 'How to read Spectrograms' including such concepts as musicality and pitch extremely informative.

I came across them as I was reading about a new Iphone app called Spectrogram that produces live streaming sonograms on your phone using the Iphone voice recorder microphone (or an external mike if you wish to invest). I'm just in the process of adding it into the phone as it needed an operating system upgrade to function that takes a while to download but I'm quite keen to get out and test it and see how well it works.
I haven't quite figured out whether it can capture the data for subsequent analysis or whether this would need to be done via a photograph, nor is it immediately clear how to get available sonograms onto the phone in order to compare but again it's something to work on. This might be the only way I can 'hear' birdsong ten years from now so it's worth the effort in my book.

A short session at one of my favourite migrant hotspots tonight produced a smorgasbord of phylloscopus and sylvia warblers, takking, hweeting and generally flitting and flinging themselves all over the place. Whilst I had nothing more exciting than Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Common Whitethroat there was at least 20+ birds involved in a fairly small area. Worth setting the alarm for I think.


Lizardgirl said...

Hi - sounds like a great tool and very useful. My mum has tinnitus too, I hope they make some leaps forward in their understanding of the condition. I am glad that both you and she have not let it get in the way of your enjoyment of nature :-)

anubhav kapoor said...

The I phone application you mentioned has been the first in a series of updates directed at making media tools more friendly for those with hearing problems. There is a large scale pressure on studios to make sub-titling for music vids and movies mandatory.