first issue of volume 19 (1997) of Dutch Birding contained an ad from a
camera shop in Den Haag, Zuid-Holland, for a small parabolic microphone
and a tape recorder; subscribers of Dutch Birding were offered a
discount of almost 11% on the normal price of 549 Dutch guilders.
Encouraged by Magnus Robb, who had already been recording bird sounds
for some time then, I bought the set. On Wednesday 2 April 1997, I made
my first sound-recordings, of a European Serin and a Corn Bunting at
Maastricht, Limburg. The deep hooting of a male Eurasian Eagle-Owl in a
quarry late that morning, did not get on tape unfortunately.
Early September 1997, Hans Groot, Laurens Steijn, Pieter Thomas and I
spent a weekend birding on Vlieland, Friesland. Our ambitions to find
rarities were high as ever. Despite hard work, however, it seemed that
we had to settle for Ortolan Bunting as the rarest species. Once we had
boarded the ferry on the way home again, only the analysis of a
sound-recording of unfamiliar calls from a bird in flight, heard on
Saturday 6 September by me only, could change that…
And it did: the calls on my tape turned out to be from a Two-barred
Crossbill – a rare and irregular visitor from northern Eurasia.
I would have preferred to identify the bird in the field, but I was
happy with the outcome anyway. For sure, this was a sound I would never
forget. In fact, during the following months I was able to practice a
lot more, as an invasion of Two-barred Crossbills became apparent,
bringing record numbers to the Netherlands (Ebels et al 1999). Needless
to say, sound-recording still is a favorite activity of mine. Many birds are so much easier to
identify when you use (and trust) your ears!