Seán Ronayne

Seán fell in love with sound-recording in Catalunya, whilst living there between 2017-2020, spending every spare moment in the field sound-recording. Seán has a passion for all forms of recording, including NocMig. Now that he has moved back to Ireland he has brought his new-found passion with him which has resulted in the creation of this page!

Sound-recording has literally changed my world – I eat sleep and breathe it! I have always had an interest in wild sounds, particularly bird vocalisations but this interest had transformed itself into a passion in recent years. The turning point for me was listening to a talk on sound-recording nocturnal migration, given by Magnus Robb, of the Sound Approach. I had heard about NocMig before, but I never gave it much thought, thinking that I’d need really expensive equipment to participate in this hobby. But, when Magnus told the audience that it was possible to do this with just a handheld recorder, he really grabbed my attention. Magnus began to list of a ream of delectable migrants he had recorded over his garden and my mind was made up.

Seán’s trusty Olympus LS-12 and measuring jug combination. The jug walls protect the device from wind, with the cling-film keeping it dry.

The following night I immediately began recording from my urban balcony in El Prat de Llobregat, on the outskirts of Barcelona. The first night I recorded some migrating Night Herons and I was blown away. Each night saw a new surprise addition to my desolate urban apartment list – Tree Pipits, Hawfinch, Brambling, and even Yellow-browed Warbler – a rare but annual Siberian vagrant to Europe.

Yellow-browed Warbler, NFC, El Prat de Llobregat, Autumn 2019
Hawfinch flock, NFC, El Prat de Llobregat, Autumn 2019

As much as I was pleased with the performance of my handheld Olympus LS-12, I was hungry for an upgrade and so I moved up to the amazing Dodotronic Hi-Sound Stereo Parabola. This changed things on a number of levels. The sound quality of my NocMig recordings generally went from good to amazing, and I now decided to start focusing more on active-sound recording, in the field.

I decided to embark on a fun project: to sound-record as many birds as possible, in a single year, in Catalunya. This has probably taught me more about bird sounds in a single year, than I had learned in my entire life, leading to that point. It was a difficult journey at times, with severe COVID restrictions hampering my efforts. However, lockdown eases, and the fact that I was surveying in the steppes meant that I could continue to record throughout most of the year, and when I couldn’t I had NocMig.

There were so many highlights to this year of sound recording that I’ve began writing a book, which is certainly a long-term project, but it’s taking shape, nonetheless. To try to give an insight into this eclectic big year of listening, I’ll share a number of highlights, along with a brief description.

This Wallcreeper recording was the culmination of months of searching and failing for the species, and represents one of the first, if not the first, recording of this rare and elusive species from Catalunya. The above photo is of the actual bird.
The sound of spring in Catalunya: recorded in Feb’ 2020, this chorus of Parsley Frogs is the sound of an awakening land, and welcomes in the first moments of Spring.
Juvenile and adult Long-eared Owls, calling in the darkness of the night – Summer 2020, Catalunya.

With work prospects not looking too good for me in Catalunya due to COVID, it was time to move back home to Ireland. Whilst, I’ve lost the good weather I certainly haven’t lost my new-found passion for sound-recording and this has resulted in the creation of Irish Wildlife Sounds, which I hope can also inspire others to take up this beautiful art.