Jean-Claude Roche, "Bird Songs and Calls of Britain and Europe" [4 CDs Set]
WildSounds | 2008 | ISBN: 1898665540 | MP3@256 kbps | 4 hrs 58 mins | 545.6 Mb
Sound recordings of birds tend to fall into two camps: the “field guide approach”, such as that taken here, and the more “atmospheric”, treating bird calls as music, for pleasurable listening — not that some of the recordings on this set can't be enjoyed in their own right.
Unlike many of the former, this set eschews spoken introductions, in order to cram in as much useful material as possible. Rather than concentrating on just songbirds and their songs, the four volumes, cover, in turn, the calls of divers, grebes, petrels, herons, geese, ducks and raptors; then those of gamebirds, rails, bustards, waders, gulls, terns, pigeons and sandgrouse; plus the calls and songs of cuckoos, owls, nightjars, woodpeckers, larks, pipits, chats and hippolais warblers; and finally sylvia warblers, flycatchers, tits, shrikes, crows, sparrows, finches and buntings. For some species, such as Lapwing and Snipe, other sounds, made by the feathers during display flights, also feature.
In total, 396 species are heard (99 on each CD), including just about all the regular British breeding and migrant birds, plus much more besides. The only exceptions are the rarest vagrants, such as American waders, and those where one would expect there to be no available recording — one can hardly complain at the lack of inclusion, of, say, the Eskimo Curlews or Slender-billed Curlews or Great Auk (though one could, of course bemoan the reasons for their absence, in a wider sense).
Species are listed in systematic order, based on Collins New Generation Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe (Perrins C., 1987).
Each track is necessarily short (most are between half- and one-minute), but a wealth of detail is packed into most of them. The Canada Goose (not one of our most musical birds, by any definition) has, in 44 seconds, "typical calls, calls of a pair, and small wintering flock", while the Grey Heron is allowed one minute fifteen seconds to give us "Calls in flight, greetings at the nest, sounds of a colony and calls of nestlings". Each disc last 74 minutes, apart from the second, which lasts 77.
Many individual sound recordists, including a number of familiar names, and the BBC Natural History Unit, are listed collectively for the set, but credits for individual tracks are not given. The sound quality is admirable, without the distracting changes in level and tone, which one might expect when so many sources and locations are involved . Roché has done all his colleagues proud, in that respect.
Interestingly, if the first disc is to be believed, Cuckoos are more common than one might otherwise expect; they are heard, somewhat incongruously, in the background of recordings as unlikely as those for the Black- throated Diver, Glossy Ibis and Pochard.
Vol 1. Divers to Birds of Prey.
Vol 2. Gamebirds to Sandgrouse.
Vol 3. Cuckoos to Hippolais Warblers.
Vol 4. Sylvia Warblers to Buntings.