The day a colony disappeared

On May 31st 2010. This colony of healthy Brown pelicans and laughing gulls thrived like it has done for many years. On June 7th 2010 it was no longer.

This is all we have left, A picture

We went out to record and video this colony that was in the line of fire from the Gulf oil spill disaster and document what was existing at the time. This colony lasted 45 days until the oil finally came ashore and wiped it out. Hundreds of gulls and Brown Pelicans were covered with oil virtually over night. One day it was healthy the next it was contaminated. This was extinction happening right in front of my eyes.
These sounds will be the last that is ever heard from this little island in the Gulf of Mexico. I do not think it will ever be the same again..

Copyright: martyn stewart

Birds of the colony:
Brown Pelican
Laughing Gull
Black oystercatcher
Black Skimmer
Rosetta spoonbill

Geek notes:
Recorder: SD 722
Microphones: MKH -40/30 MS
Tripod mounted with Rycote windjammer.
Sample rate: 44.1k 24 bit
Temp: 82f
Humidity: 85%
Weather: Thunder/partly cloudy
Recordist: Martyn Stewart

Black Vulture

You have just been knocked over on the road and you wake up to 9 vultures feeding on you! Well not me but a poor animal on the Road to El Cuyo, Mexico. I placed the microphones around this carcass as these vultures swooped in and began to feast. If you listen with headphones the flies get right into you!

Black Vulture

Black Vulture in waiting

Black Vultures

Geek notes:
Recorder: SD 722
Microphones: MKH 40/30
Tripod mounted with Windpac wind protector
Sample rate: 44.1k 24 bit
Weather: Clear
Temp: 78f
Humidity: 78%
Location: El Cuyo. Mexico
Recordist: Martyn Stewart

Red-winged blackbird chorus

Morning has broken, like the first morning, blackbird has spoken like the first bird! Here we can praise for their singing. There is nothing like a spring morning filled with the sounds of the dawn chorus. Here we have red-winged blackbirds with pacific chorus frogs, varied thrush and winter wrens filling the morning air.
This section was taken from a much longer take condensed down to around 9 minutes. I include all the metadata info as it happened in realtime to give you a feeling how the morning panned out.

the song fills the air

Red-winged blackbird

Geek notes:Location: stossel creek
Date: 2010-04-20
Time: 05:42
State: Washington

Description: morning at stossel creek

Habitat: ponds/coniferous
Voxtype: dawn
Category: soundscape

Recorder: SD 722
Mics: sennheiser mkh 40/30
Sample rate: 44.1k 24 bit
Microphone pattern: MS stereo
Take# 1

Anthrophony: light distant traffic/airplane 16:37/20:20 airplane/31:18 airplane/38:46 airplane/40:15 car door/53:25 airplane

Geophony: rain on leaves/10:31 wing flaps from wood duck/16:37 wood ducks take off/21:19 red-breasted sapsucker drum knock/42:54 beaver tail slap/47:05 wood duck wing flaps/

Biophony: pacific chorus frogs/varied thrush/winter wren/barred owl/around 9:30 frogs go quieter/American robin/18:49 bumble bee/21:30 frog vocal change/23:50 song sparrow/24:18 bumble bee/26:05 nice varied thrush calls/27:27 frog vocal change/28:27 common raven/28:57 northern flicker/30:22 common yellowthroat/30:55 song sparrow/32:40 wood duck calls/Douglas squirrel/33:22 red-winged blackbird unusual calls/35:25 common yellowthroat/36:06 rufous-hummingbird/36:54 individual chorus frog croak/42:18 bumble bee/43:49 chorus frog/44:05 wood duck calls/46:28 wood duck high calls/47:35 wood duck calls/48:14 varied thrush song/chorus frogs and wood ducks/49:37 red-winged blackbird/50:30 red-winged blackbird single call/51:20 northern flicker/59:51 red-winged blackbird/

Weather: overcast
Temp: 47f
Wind: calm
Barometer: 1017.4 mb
Elevation: 605ft
GPS: N47.76772 W121.85210

Recordist: Martyn Stewart

Notes: inserted -30 db tone at beginning of the recording/ Mic suspension with Rycote windjammer and gitzo tripod/

Puerto rican tanager

Ever thought you were going deaf when you can see the beak of a bird moving but you can’t hear the sound? Well here is a bird that calls high up there in the frequency range, The Puerto rican tanager (Nesospingus speculiferus) is a small passerine bird endemic to the archipelago of Puerto Rico. It is the only member of the Nesospingus genus of the tanager family. The sound available here is the very high 12 KHz calls, if you can’t hear it you either have wax in your ears or your aging fast :)
The tanager is reasonably common in mixed-species flocks in the humid Puerto Rican highlands, this was recorded in the Caribbean national forest.

Photo from

Puerto rican tanager

Sonogram showing the high frequency calls of the Puerto rican tanager

Recorded by Martyn Stewart.
Copyright: Martyn Stewart

Song Sparrow

singing from a branch, the song sparrow

"Put on ya tea kettle kettle kettle"

Washington’s Song Sparrows are large, dark, heavily streaked, chunky birds. The face has dark streaks through each eye and on either side of the crown, with gray between the dark streaks. Both upperparts and underparts are also streaked. The streaks on the breast often converge into a central breast spot, but many other streak-breasted sparrows can also have a central spot like this, and thus this field mark is not diagnostic. The tail is long and often held cocked up, and is pumped up and down in flight.

Copyright, Martyn Stewart. Visit also recordist: martyn stewart. Photo: Mike Hamilton

Savannah Sparrow

The Savannah Sparrow, Washington’s most common streak-breasted sparrow of the open country, is highly variable across its range. The white underside of this sparrow is streaked with buff and brown across the breast. The back is streaked, and a little bit of rufous is visible on the wings. The head is brown and gray with a pale yellow eyebrow, which may or may not be visible. These birds have pinkish legs and bills and relatively short, notched tails. Western Washington breeders are darkly striped, while birds east of the Cascades and many migrants are paler. Some of the migrants found in Washington are of a larger-sized race that breeds in the Aleutians.

Insect sound of the savannah sparrow

I sing like an insect but i'm the voice of spring!

Copyright Martyn Stewart. Please also visit Recordist: Martyn Stewart

red-breasted sapsucker

Two red-breasted sapsuckers communicate by knocking, it is courtship time and the woodpeckers are looking to bond for the new season.

Red-breasted sapsucker

Red-breasted sapsucker

These two sapsuckers follow each other around the creek knocking on old dead snags checking” each other out.

(From Birdweb) Red-breasted Sapsuckers are similar in appearance to the closely related Red-naped Sapsuckers, but they have red heads and breasts. Their upper-parts are black barred with white, and they have a prominent white stripe across each black wing. They lack the black breast-band of the other two sapsucker species found in Washington, and they have yellowish bellies. Males and females look much alike. Juveniles are mottled brown but have white wing-stripes like the adults.

Red breasted sapsucker

Red-breasted sapsucker foraging for insects

Click anywhere in the sonogram to hear the recording taken from Stossel creek.

Geek Notes.
Sound levels

The ambient noise from Stossel creek

Location: stossel creek road
Date: 2010-03-07
Time: 06:45
State: Washington

Description: morning at Stossel creek

Habitat: pond/pine
VoxType: morning
Category: soundscape

Recorder: SD 722
Mics: sennheiser mkh 40/30
Sample rate: 44.1k 24 bit
Microphone pattern: MS stereo
Take# 1

Anthrophony: airplane/distant traffic
Geophony: water (creek noises)/knocking from woodpecker

Biophony: winter wren/Douglas squirrel/golden-crowned kinglet/red-breasted sapsucker/American robin/northern pigmy owl/steller’s jay/canada goose/black-capped chickadee/varied thrush

Weather: partly cloudy
Temp: 39f
Humidity: 58%
Wind: calm
Recordist: Martyn Stewart

Notes: inserted -30 db tone at beginning of the recording/ set recording level pots to 56.7db – Mic suspension with Rycote windjammer and gitzo tripod/

Superb lyrebird

The amazing superb lyrebird is found in Australia and is considered one of the premier mimics of the avian world.
A non-recordist friend recently asked me in an e-mail whether birds ever imitated human music and whether composers ever copied bird-song. The latter I can answer at length, (having corresponded with Syd Curtis, Australia ), but not the first. There is a story of a lyrebird chick raised in captivity and learning to sing by copying flute music. He was later released and his “flute” songs were taken up by that lyrebird population. That’s the story. It’s been disputed. I think it probably did happen. Here is a recording I made in Victoria, Australia in 1996. Syd Curtis (Lyrebird expert) told me he could identify over 18 birds that this bird had imitated and even told me the location where I recorded the lyrebird because of the dialects!

Superb lyrebird

Superb lyrebird - From Wikipedia

The Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) is a pheasant-sized songbird, approximately 100cm long, with brown upper body plumage, grayish-brown below, rounded wings and strong legs. It is the longest and third heaviest of all songbirds.

make sure you click on the play button at the foot of the sonogram to hear this amazing bird.

Take a look at this video of a Lyrebird mimicking a construction site nearby


Mallard explosion.
I have a feeder in the woods and daily i get 20 to 30 mallards fly in from a nearby pond, their wing flaps are amazing. Here is a recording I did one morning anticipating their arrival, I left the mics close to the feeder and “walla”
In this recording you can also hear:
American Crow, Varied Thrush, Dark-eyed junco, Red-breasted sapsucker, Steller’s jay, Wood Duck.
Recordist: martyn stewart


The amazing mallard arrival

Copyright, Martyn Stewart. Visit also recordist: martyn stewart