Thermal Infrared Bird Videos

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[Woodcock Skydance] [Night Migration] [Virginia Rails]
  1. Woodcock Skydance Taken 2016-03-26, 8:00pm EDT.

    In this edition, the bird is staging in the open, clearly visible and quite close to me, peenting loudly (again with the soft but audible "gulp" prelude) and walking around a little before making a full skydance. Pretty much all of the different stages of twittering is audible (some a little soft), which is remarkable from the microphone of a Nexus 7 tablet. The only imperfection in this video is that the sky was clear, so there isn't any background texture to get a full sense of where the bird is moving.

    Listen for the different sounds:
    1. Before each "peent" is a soft "gulp" or "whoop".
    2. The skydance ascent "twitter".
    3. When the skydance nears the peak, the twitter gets higher, faster, and "sputters" (with gaps between sequences of twitters")
    4. The descent is accompanied by loud "chips", which in this video begins close to peaking, interspersed with the sputters.

  2. Woodcock Interactions Taken 2016-04-09, 8:15pm EDT.

    After performing its skydance, this American Woodcock landed about 30 feet away and commenced peenting. This was quite a treat, but what happened next was an unexpected surprise.

    The solf "gulp" preceding each peent is heard much more clearly, reminiscent of the cooing of a dove.

  3. Night Migration
    Firefox users: if you get a "file is corrupt" error, right-click and save the file then view it outside of Firefox. Taken 2016-04-15, 11:00pm EDT, Commonland, Ithaca NY.

    On this calm clear night, the radar showed significant migration in the area. I sat outside my house with my ThermApp HZ and 35mm lens pointing to the sky, and soon started seeing birds moving across.

    The above are four highlight clips, showing some birds low and fast, others higher and sometimes barely discernible against the noisy ThermApp sensor. There were some quiet time in between, but the number of birds observed was still higher than I would have expected.

    The camera was deliberately oriented northward with the image flipped, so that up is north, left is west, etc. Most birds were flying north or northerly, but every now and then one would head south instead, like the bird in the last clip, who seemed a little confused.

    A composite of the NEXRAD radar for that night is available here:
        Animated GIF (1.9 MB)
        On YouTube (

  4. Virginia Rails
    Firefox users: if you get a "file is corrupt" error, right-click and save the file then view it outside of Firefox. Taken 2016-05-21, 11:30am EDT, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, NY

    Two clips showing virginia rails skulking in the reeds. This was at the start of the wildlife drive, on the west side of the road across from Larue's Lagoon.

    In the second clip, the first rail notices the second and chases it quickly -- when they meet, my camera's focus switches from the first bird to the second (something I hadn't noticed until after I got home), and when things calm down we're looking at the second bird while the first bird vocalizes from the right.

    Listen also to the various sounds. There are some interesting birds around, including Willow Flycatcher and Blackpoll Warbler (and some annoying machinery nearby).

  5. Blackbird Nest + Virginia Rail(s) Taken 2016-05-21, 11:30am EDT, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, NY

    When scanning the reeds for the virginia rails I found this warm spot in the middle. This turned out to be the nest of a red-winged blackbird. What I hadn't noticed when taking this video clip (which I think I took by accident) was that a virginia rail snuck away in the lower left corner of the frame.

    You may notice also that just to the right and below the nest another warm spot appears briefly. I believe this was a second virginia rail, though it could have been a red-winged blackbird.

Earlier Drafts

  1. First Full Skydance Taken 2016-03-13, 7:45pm EDT. Edwards Lake Cliffs Preserve, Lansing NY.

    First full skydance video I took. The dance begins after eight peents. Bird is obscured on the ground, but tracked through the air the entire way (except for a split second at the beginning when it flew too close to me). Highest part of skydance not audible.

  2. Surprise Landing Taken 2016-03-25, ~7:50pm EDT. Edwards Lake Cliffs Preserve, Lansing NY.

    Full skydance against some cloud texture for a better sense of movement. On return, the bird unexpectedly landed in the open on the path, probably about 30 feet away. You can hear the soft "gulp" preceding the peents.

Suan Hsi Yong --