first issue of volume 19 (1997) of Dutch Birding contained an ad from a
camera shop in Den Haag 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 Serinus serinus and a Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra at
Maastricht. The deep hooting of a male Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 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. Our ambitions to find
rarities were high as ever. Despite hard work, however, it seemed that
we had to settle for Ortolan Bunting E hortulana 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 Loxia leucoptera– 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!