Zöckler, C, Thet Zaw Naing & Saw Moses 2017. Musikverlag Edition AMPLE. ISBN 978-3-938147-84-9, DVD-ROM and booklet, 38 pp. Prijs 49,99 Euro. Available through: www.tierstimmen.de.
If you are familiar with the name Christoph Zöckler in the context of high arctic wader studies, then you may be surprised to know that he is the main author of a new DVD-ROM of the sounds of birds and other animals of Myanmar in southeast Asia. The connection is that from 2011 onwards, Zöckler visited Myanmar several times in search of wintering Spoon-billed Sandpipers Calidris pygmea. This led to other survey work, assessing the biodiversity value and protection status of potential protected areas in Myanmar. As a result he has visited many different parts of the country. Most of the 1012 recordings – 500 bird species, 15 mammals, 12 cicadas and 22 soundscapes – were made by Zöckler himself, with important contributions from his two co-authors, as well as seven other recordists. Most were recorded during the last decade.
The Bird and Nature Sounds of Myanmar is a collection of mp3s, like Zöckler’s previous publication Birdsounds of Northern Siberia (2007), and it follows a similar format, but this is in many ways a higher quality publication. For a start, the recordings are generally clearer, having been made with better equipment. This time the format is DVD-ROM, not CD-ROM, making possible a much greater quantity and diversity of recordings.
All of the sounds in this publication were recorded in Myanmar and almost none were published previously. Species are listed following the Checklist of the Birds of Myanmar (Thet Zaw Naing et al. unpublished), which is similar but not identical to Robson’s A Field Guide to the Birds of South East Asia (2012). Recordings are identified to species level and they are not aged or sexed. Notes for each one give the location, month, year and the name of the recordist.
How comprehensive is this collection? Xeno-canto currently has 654 recordings of 240 bird species from Myanmar. The Bird and Nature Sounds of Myanmar has 1012 recordings of 500 bird species. I imagine that on Xeno-canto, most of the remaining 260 species are represented by recordings from neighbouring countries, but why look them up one by one, when this collection saves you the trouble.
Given Zöckler’s background, it will come as no surprise that waders are particularly well represented, including 35 species that also occur in the greater Western Palearctic. There are very clear examples, for instance, of Great Knot C tenuirostris, Broad-billed Sandpiper C falcinellus, Oriental Pratincole Glareola malvidarum and Small Pratincole G lactea. Looking further afield, I enjoyed learning the non-breeding repertoire of Nordmann’s Greenshank Tringa guttifer. The critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper is not included, but imagine the difficulty of picking out calls of the odd individual in huge Calidris flocks on vast mudflats, when counting them was the priority: its omission is hardly surprising.
As someone primarily interested in Palearic birds, this DVD-ROM, also had much to offer me. There are a good many recordings of species that occur in western Europe as vagrants. I was surprised to learn that Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola gives ourbursts of calls that sound like a rough sketch of a Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix song. I also enjoyed hearing species such as Thick-billed Warbler Iduna aedon, Arctic Warbler P borealis, Greenish Warbler P trochiloides, Dusky Warbler P fuscus, Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope, Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla, Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica and Asian Brown Flycatcher M dauurica.
This brings me to one of my frustrations. There are times when a recording contains two quite different sounds simultanously, both of them prominent, and there is no information explaining which sound belongs to the species in question. So I am left guessing whether Asian Brown Flycatcher really has rattles that sound so similar to Taiga Flycatcher, or whether that was in fact a Taiga putting in an appearance. This problem came up several times. Space is limited in DVD booklets, but in many cases a very short sentence would have been enough to remove my doubts.
When possible, sexing or ageing the recordings would be helpful. The two recordings of Brown Fish Owl Bubo zeylonensis for example, contain juvenile begging calls; the only recording of a Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca is a female in flight. Surely the authors must have been aware of the age and sex of their subjects on many occasions. Again, a word or two would have added a lot more information.
Most buyers of this DVD-ROM will be primarily interested in birds, but it also contains recordings of various other animals. The mammals are mainly primates, including beautiful recordings of Hoolock Gibbon Bunopithecus hoolock and White-handed Gibbon Hylobates lar. The Tokay Gecko Gekko gecko, as it turns out, ‘speaks’ its own name. Some of the cicadas are very impressive, and the names the authors have invented for them are amusing (eg, ‘car-racing cicada’, ‘whinging cicada’), but anyone truly interested in cicadas will be frustrated that scientific names are lacking. The 22 soundscapes include scenes as diverse as mudflats, tropical rainforest, freshwater lakes and even a town center. The last three illustrate some of the threats to the rich diversity contained in this DVD-ROM: chainsaws in a mangrove swamp and shooting in a forest.
For anyone interested in the birds of southeast Asia, and especially anyone planning a birding trip to Myanmar, this is a product well worth buying. I can also see myself referring to it now and then for sounds of Palearctic migrants, especially waders. It is a very welcome addition to my library of bird sound publications.
Robson, C. 2002. A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia. London.
Thet Zaw Naing, Saw Moses, Lay Win & Thiri Dawei Aung (unpublished). Checklist of the Birds of Myanmar.
Zöckler, C. 2007. Birdsounds of Northern Siberia. CD-ROM and booklet, 22 pp.