One of my all time favorite sounds is the sound of curlew display calls. In the spring and early summer curlews move in from the coastal areas to inland areas of moorland and wet patches of meadows to breed and find nesting sites. This happens in Scotland from around the end of March through to mid May depending on weather conditions. Then after they have paired up and found a nest site they begin to make display flights in large arches over and around the nest site. As they do this they make their characteristic song which starts with individual drawling note and becomes a wonderful rippling, bubbly trill. Curlews used to nest in the hills above my house in Dumfries and Galloway and I remember hearing the unmistakeable melancholy sound echoing round the hills when I was a child.
I have tried to record curlews in the past the results have never been that great. I know a place where they like to nest up near Loch Urr the only trouble with the location is that it is on quite a busy flight path so the best time to record seems to be at sunrise. The best time to record curlews, as with many birds, is either very early in the morning or at dusk as the sun is setting and the curlews are returning to their nests. I find that at this (April) time of year the two peak times are 5am or 6.30pm and due to the large amount of planes I went for early morning. Above is the first half decent recording I made. I arrived at 4.30am and set up my mics in a field next to a pine forest just above Loch Urr with a 30m cable run and retired to my car (which makes a very good hide when the temperature is around -2 outside!) The curlew passes nicely across the stereo field. Sadly there is a bit of hiss because I have had to push the pre amps to their limit!
... And heres another longer recording with a mix of curlew display calls and snipe "drumming". "Drumming" is the name for the sound snipe make when they swoop over the nesting site and make a noise a bit like a kazoo or some kind of LFO effect. The sound is made by the wind rushing though their tail feathers. The picture is a spectrogram of a section of the recording which gives you a nice visual representation of the spectrum of the frequencies in the sound. The snipe drumming is to the left of the shot and the Curlew is mainly to the right.
I also made a variety of mono recordings of curlew with my reflector. As I was trying to record curlew display calls which are made while the birds are flying, the reflector had to be hand held rather than on a tripod so I could follow the curlews as they passed. This meant avoiding handling noise was difficult even while wearing fleece gloves. These recording below was made in the evening just before sunset in between the passing planes.