HOW TO RECORD BIRDS EASILY ON ABACO (OR ANYWHERE ELSE…)


Red-winged Blackbird Abaco 3

RECORDING BIRDS: A LAYMAN’S GUIDE

YOU WILL NEED: an iPh@ne or similar  smartphone with a voice memo facility; patience; minimal non-natural background noises (traffic, yelling people, barking dogs, heavy machinery); a steady-ish hand; one or more birds nearby

RECORDING

  • Use the Voice Memo app on an iPh@ne (I presume most other smart phones have a similar app).
  • Once you have it onscreen, turn the phone round 180 deg and the image will swivel round too. Now you can point the microphone at the sound and have the controls the right way up facing you.
  • Turn the volume up to max before you record.
  • Handle the phone carefully so it doesn’t record you touching it as well. It probably won’t pick up pressing ‘record’, but it may when you press ‘stop’. But you can trim the end of the saved file on the file very simply.
  • The recording saves in m4p format, and you can email it to your computer direct from the app (or to anywhere or anyone else).
  • Drag / save the file onto your desktop from the email. When you open it, it will (a) play and (b) appear in your iTunes library (or whatever music storage system you use).

CONVERTING RECORDINGS TO MP3

  • Having opened the recording, to convert the file to an mp3 (generally the preferred version for uploading elsewhere) in iTunes, go to Songs in your iTunes library and search for Memo. There it is!
  • You can rename it at this stage if you wish.
  • Then go to File on the top bar, and in the drop-down menu, near the bottom, go to Create new version. It will offer you mp3.
  • Click mp3 and a second recording file will appear in your library. That’s your mp3.
  • Drag it onto your desktop and do what you want with it.

Apologies if this is all blindingly obvious and written in the elementary computer language ‘eggy-peggy’. It took me a while to get it sorted out, and I hope the details above will help the lo-tek computer user to record birds and use the results painlessly.

FIELD NOTES

  • I recommend recording for about 20 – 30 seconds max. The iPh@ne  allows easy trimming at the start and end of the saved file, but there’s no easy way to edit the middle to take out the barking dog.
  • Several short recordings of each bird will give a better choice of results than one or 2 long recordings.
  • The iPh@ne mic is surprisingly sensitive. It will pick up all nearby sounds – someone whispering at you “is it recording yet?”, for example. So ideally this is best done in the pine forest or coppice, away from the Highway. And maybe the loud whisperer.
  • Wind can be a problem. Not just for humans. The mic will pick up gusts of wind, or wind blowing across it if you change the direction you are pointing the phone as you record. So this is best done on a calm day.

Red-winged Blackbird Abaco 1

Here are two practice recordings I made in March. The first is the female red-winged blackbird above (and header) at Casuarina beach. The distinctive call is rather like a rusty hinge on a swinging gate, often heard far out in the mangrove swamps of the Marls. You’ll hear background noises from collared doves and also the sea lapping on the shore.

The second is thick-billed vireo in the coppice at Delphi. You’ll hear an answering vireo – and also some wind noise. I find these little birds frustratingly hard to see – they always seem to be lurking further back in the bushes than I think. I’ve never managed to take a good photo of one, so I’ll upload an illustrative poor one to be going on with. I am back on Abaco in a week, and a better TBV photo is on my avian hit list.

Thick-billed Vireo, AbacoFinally, you’ll find a longer recording I made of Abaco parrots squabbling noisily at Bahama Palm Shores near the end of a recent post HERE. I made an mp3 using the method described above, and uploaded it to the excellent Xeno-Canto bird sounds website, which is well worth exploring. You can find my recordings of the parrots and the birds in this post, plus sonograms, on my XC page, such as it is, HERE 

But if you just want to hear the parrots, here they are. Like schoolkids, only louder.

Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 13Why do I do that annoying ‘iPh@ne’ thing? It’s a statistical fact that I have just made up that 373,597 people a minute world-wide g@@gle the correct word. Imagine the meta-crawlers and spam-splurgers that lock onto that word. I don’t want to cyber-meet them. I also use the form Am@z@n but for different reasons relating to their ingenious tax arrangements (alleged, obviously). Thus  with G@@gle as well (again, merely alleged – as Dusty Springfield memorable sang, “Nothing is proved…)

CUBAN PEWEE: NATURE’S LEAST SCARY TYRANT


Cuban Pewee Abaco 8

CUBAN PEWEE: NATURE’S LEAST SCARY TYRANT

Pasted Graphic
image.aspxThe CUBAN PEWEE Contopus caribaeus bahamensis, also known as the Crescent-eyed Pewee (see photos for details), is a tyrant. At 6″ long , the smallest tyrant you are likely to encounter in the Bahamas, but undoubtedly a member of the family Tyrranidae. These are the flycatchers, and include the larger LA SAGRA’S FLYCATCHER and the still larger Loggerhead and Gray Kingbirds. The Cuban Pewee is permanently resident on Abaco, and can be found in both pine woods and coppice. When returning to its perch after a flycatching sortie, this bird gives a characteristic flick of the tail.

The little bird below was in the edge of the coppice bordering the long sandy beach at Casuarina. Bruce Hallett, in his essential book  ‘Birds of the West Indies…’ notes that Cuban Pewees are ‘usually approachable’, so I decided to test this out. I was about 20 feet from the bird when I first saw it. By sliding one foot forward in the sand and pausing before moving the other foot, I got to within 5 feet of the bird, while it watched my approach with apparent indifference. Unlike some creatures, it did not seem discomfited by eye-contact. It responded when I made a faint clicking sound by rather sweetly putting its head on one side.  Then it began to fidget slightly – possibly feeling camera-shy. So I shuffled slowly back so as not to disturb it in its own territory.

The close-ups at the end clearly show the tiny hooked tip at the end of the upper beak – I imagine this somehow relates to the business of catching flies. Like other flycatchers, the Cuban Pewee has very distinctive whiskers around the base of the beak – again I presume this assists with feeding in some way, perhaps helping to sense the approach of an insect. Any expert views welcome via the comment box.

Cuban Pewee Abaco 1Cuban Pewee Abaco 7Cuban Pewee Abaco 6 Cuban Pewee Abaco 5 Cuban Pewee Abaco 4Cuban Pewee Abaco 9 Cuban Pewee Abaco 10It’s occasionally tempting to anthropomorphise such close encounters in terms of imputed human / creature empathy. Much best to resist that. But as I withdrew, leaving this little  bird undisturbed on its branch, I did experience a strange feeling of… [I must interrupt myself here. I'm a lawyer, so that's quite enough of that sort of nonsense]

GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE: IS SHE RELATED TO AN ELEPHANT?


GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE: IS SHE RELATED TO AN ELEPHANT?

Georgie, having returned to Cherokee after Hurricane Sandy, is still around there and seems to have made it her home. While she was missing, it was thought she had headed off instinctively for the protection of the mangroves. However a number of sighting reports made since Sandy suggest that she had sensibly swum up the canal at Casuarina, where she was able to keep her head down until the storm had safely cleared northwards, and she was able to return to base. Because she had shed her tag, we’ll never know the full story… 

Georgie safely back at Cherokee after Hurricane Sandy

Recently an interesting article by BEACH CHAIR SCIENTIST considered the relationship between sirenians and pachyderms, and added some handy comparative facts (you can seen more manatee facts on this blog HERE). Thanks, BCS, for use permission (the relevant credits are contained in the article).

Are manatees and elephants related?

by Beach Chair Scientist

It might be very difficult to imagine, but manatees (also known as ‘sea cows’) share a common ancestor with elephants which might come as a surprise if you thought manatees shared a common ancestor with other marine mammals such as dolphins, whales, or sea lions. Here are 10 facts that link manatees and elephants are long-lost relatives.

1. Scientifically, manatees and elephants are classified as subungulates. Other mammals in the Subungulata superorder are hyraxes and aardvarks.
2.Manatees and elephants have an uncommon-shaped heart that is spherical. To compare, most mammals have a single-pointed tip at the base (i.e., “heart”—shaped).
3. The West Indian and West African manatee have three or four fingernail-like structures on the tip of their flippers, just like that of the toenails on the feet of elephants.
4. Manatees and elephants both have a thick, gray skin with very sparse hair.
5. Manatees and elephants have molars which move toward the front of the mouth, eventually break off, and are restored by those at the rear. Elephants have a limited number while manatees are never-ending.
6. Manatees have two incisors that bear a resemblance to elephant tusks.
7. Manatees use their large, flexible muscular lips to break apart vegetation in the water and skillfully steer food to their mouths. This is very similar to the action of the elephant eating with his trunk.
8. Manatees and elephants are herbivores. Manatees tend to feast on sea grass and freshwater plants and consume up to 100-150 pounds a day. Elephants tend to feast on small plants, bushes, fruit, twigs, tree bark, and roots and consume up to 330-375 pounds a day.
9. Male manatees and elephants are known as bulls. Female manatee and elephants are known as cows. Young manatee and elephants are known as calves.
10. Manatees and elephants are both endangered. Their numbers have dropped due in a large part to human activities.

Manatee image (c) cruisenaplesflorida.com, elephant image (c) gallery.hd.org

Here is a fantastic TEACHING RESOURCE from the University of Florida and Se Grant extension I uncovered while pulling this post together.

Credit: SavetheManatee.org

To whom thanks also for this: WHAT DO MANATEES SOUND LIKE? 

 

MUREX & TRITON SHELL COLLECTING ON ABACO WITH KASIA


PAGE REWRITE IN PROGRESS

MUREX (MURICIDAE) & TRITONS (RANELLIDAE) 

1. MUREX SHELLS (Muricidae)

This is a vast family of shells worldwide, with many subspecies, each of which has many regional variations. Or even variations of the same subspecies on the same beach. Many have beautiful delicate spines or intricate shapes and elaborate patterns, like the pacific one shown

These molluscs are described as ‘voracious rock scavengers’ and exhibit uninhibited psychopathic tendencies. If you have a nervous disposition, stop reading here; Sam Peckinpah missed a great film collaboration with Jacques Cousteau with these vicious little creatures

10 ESSENTIAL YET GRISLY MUREX FACTS

  • Murex are highly carnivorous with rasping teeth, and drilling equipment for boring into the shells of their prey
  • A determined Murex may take up to 5 days to drill into its prey
  • Murex also use their foot to smother prey, or to crush it by using suction power
  • They eat clams by hoovering them up with their foot and smashing them on rocks to get at the occupant
  • They happily eat sea-floor carrion and sea-kill
  • Murex act in packs to carry out raids on unsuspecting beds of clams, which they feast on avidly
  • They are sexually wanton. Females store sperm from different males for many months, eventually producing embryos with different dads (I’m not making this up. I would like to have done so)
  • Cannibalism occurs. The kids are equally prone to extreme delinquency and are happy to eat each other when peckish
  • Some species of murex secrete a fluid that is believed to be used to drug their prey into paralysis
  • That same fluid (Murex / Mucus) is also used as a dye, ‘Tyrian’ or ‘Royal’ Purple, which can be ‘milked’ from a living murex (the Aztecs & Phoenicians did this). I’ll pass on that

NEW: VIDEO of how to obtain dye from a Murex

 KASIA’S BEACHCOMBED ABACO MUREX SKELETON

TWO MUREX SHELLS OF MINE (NOT FROM ABACO) FOR COMPARISON  DETAIL OF COLOUR & SHINE

2. TRITON SHELLS (RANELLIDAE)

KASIA’S TRITON TROPHY FROM CASUARINA, ABACO

Here is another shell from Kasia’s beachcombing in the Casuarina Point area on Abaco. I’ve never seen one like this. I thought it was a TROPHON, a variety of the huge MUREX family. As I wrote, there are more than 30 types of trophon world-wide, many with a similar configuration, though I hadn’t managed to find one with a similar colouring and shell growth-pattern yet. I invited  confirmation or correction, which Colin Redfern kindly provided. It is in fact a fine example of a…

 

DOG-HEAD TRITON Cymatium cynocephalum

ANGULAR TRITON Cymatium femorale                                                                                A different sort of triton found by Kasia


BEACHCOMBING AT CASUARINA, ABACO, WITH KASIA – COWRIE / PHALIUM / CONCH


 BEACHCOMBING AT CASUARINA WITH KASIA                    COWRIE / PHALIUM & CONCH

I recently posted some photos of starfish taken by Kasia at low tide near Casuarina point – see KASIAS’S STARFISH. Now it’s time for some beachcombing news from there. The sandbanks and bars in the Casuarina / Cherokee Sound area are a rich source of conchs, sand dollar tests and shells of many varieties when the tide is out. The sandy areas revealed as the water slowly recedes are extensive, and it is a great place to hunt for specimens (and for a lunchtime break from bonefishing…)

COWRIES / PHALIUM

1. RETICULATED COWRIE-HELMET Cypraecassis testiculus Here is a pretty example of this shell, a relative of the large phalium family and originally misidentified by me as a Phalium granulatum

2. MEASLED COWRIE  Macrocypraea zebra / Cypraea zebra Colin Redfern says of this example “Immature shells have transverse stripes that are later covered by a spotted layer (hence “measled”). It looks as if it’s beachworn rather than immature, so the outer layer has probably been worn away. You can see remnants of the spotted layer adjacent to the aperture.” 

STOP PRESS: by coincidence, while looking for a completely different type of shell online I have just happened upon this early 1800s engraving of a Cypraea Vespa, which is very similar to Kasia’s one

CONCH I’m trying not to overdo Conchs, which are probably everyone’s favourite shell to collect. But this one is a wonderful pink, and came with a surprise inhabitant… Is anyone at home?

Oh! A hermit crab seems to have moved in…

It’s shyer than this one (from an unnamed online source)

Finally, a useful method to transport one’s shell collection, maybe?

STARFISH AT CASUARINA POINT, ABACO


STARFISH AT CASUARINA POINT, ABACO

Kasia, a vital contributor to this blog, has supplied a number of images taken at low tide in the Casuarina Point / Cherokee Sound area on Abaco, including these excellent starfish. I’m posting them right away because starfish haven’t so far featured at all in this enterprise. Whenever I have seen them from a skiff I have been otherwise (and mostly ineffectually) engaged at the sharp end of the boat… 

All images ©Kasia (c/o rollingharbour) 

BAHAMAS STARFISH – 10 ESSENTIAL FACTS 

  • Other names include Cushioned Star and Red Cushion Sea Star
  • Its  invertebrate body is covered by a hard shell with raised knobbly spines 
  • The color of adults may be brown, orange, red, or yellow. Juveniles are mottled green (for camouflage in seagrass beds) 
  • Found in calm shallow waters (depths 1m – 37m), most commonly on sandy bottoms. Juveniles are usually found in seagrass beds
  • Individuals can grow to 50 cm / 20″ diameter
  • Adults live in dense aggregations called ‘fronts’ of 200 to 4000 individuals
  • When food is scarce they can reabsorb body tissue to prevent weight loss / size decrease
  • They are omnivores, feeding on micro organisms, urchins, sea cucumbers, small invertebrates, crab larvae, and sponges 
  • They use their ‘arms’ to rake piles of sediment and then evert the stomach, enveloping the food in its folds (don’t try this at home).
  • The cushioned star is over-harvested for souvenirs and the aquarium trade, and is no longer common in areas of high human population
Sources: various (not Wiki except for chart). You are all stars. Sea stars, in fact