Tune into Nature’s spring playlist and help researchers track songbirds

A new project, Nature’s Audio, is inviting people to tune into nature’s amazing spring playlist and help researchers track the variety and distribution of garden birds through the songs they sing.

The project, from Durham University’s Department of Biosciences, is encouraging people to become citizen-scientists by listening-to and recording garden birdsong in their local area and uploading this to a dedicated website.

Nature's Audio Website

The project aims to produce the first nationwide sample of birdsong across the UK, to provide an insight into where and when birds, including those shortly to return from warmer climes, are singing this spring.

The team also hope that by taking part, people will connect with nature and even boost their personal well-being.

Professor Stephen Willis, who is leading the project, said: “Spring is the perfect time to enjoy the wonderful soundtrack nature provides for us. From the melodic tune of the blackbird to the cheerful chirp of the house sparrow, there are so many songs being sung right outside our window.

Nature’s Audio is encouraging people to listen to, and engage with this amazing playlist, and to help us to track spring birds, so that we can better understand their variety and distribution.

“No complicated equipment is needed – just your ears and a smartphone to record the songs and upload them to our website.

“The period of Covid-19 lockdown last spring made many people aware of the beauty of spring birdsong for the first time. We are hoping that our new website will encourage lots of people to get outdoors to record their local biodiversity and contribute their recordings to this national effort.”

Blackbird

Blackbirds are resident in the UK and in full song from mid-to-late February until the end of the breeding season in August/September.

Credit: Stephen Willis

The project is open to anyone to take part, and those without access to a garden can listen out for birdsong in their local park or when out and about.

People are invited to record the birdsong they hear using their smartphone and upload this to the project website to be included in the study.

The website also includes sound clips and information to help visitors learn how to identify different birds through their song.

Budding ornithologists can even help to identify species in the audio clips collected by the project, helping the research team build a picture of the distribution of songbirds across the UK.  Those unable to identify the songs will also be able to look up the birds that have been identified in their own recordings.

Dr Mark Eaton, a principal scientist at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) added: “Spring is a wonderful time to get out and enjoy nature, and birdsong is something we can all enjoy wherever we are, as well as being a valuable barometer of the health of nature.

“Some songs are heard much less frequently now, as species such as the Turtle Dove have declined; but others, such as the Chiffchaff, have prospered.”

“By taking part in the Nature’s Audio project you not only get to enjoy birds singing, but also contribute to research tracking birds in the spring”

This is the latest project from the Conservation Ecology group within Durham University’s Department of Biosciences, which undertakes world-class research into the relationship between organisms and their changing environment.

The initial focus of the project is on garden birds but the team hope to expand this to other species and habitats over time.

Blackbird song

(c) Nature's Audio