American Birding Podcast



Mic up that iPhone

iPhones, iPod touches, and other smartphones, tablets, or i-devices have incredible utility for birders in the field.  While iEtiquette should be considered carefully, there are many ways that these can ease our load and better our understanding of birds. Electronic field guides, bird sound recording libraries, BirdsEye (for finding birds & birding locations), weather apps, travel apps, mapping apps, and communications by phone, email & texting all support my birding with the information they output, but don't forget that these devices can collect data, too.  My iPhone can be used for digiscoping (er, phone scoping- check out Bird Chick's tutorial for this technique!), entering eBird checklists (using BirdsEye BirdLog– more on that later…), and for recording bird songs.  It is the latter utility that I'd like to briefly discuss here…

 There are many recording apps to choose from including the built-in Voice Memo- I happen to use Recorder but in truth I haven't researched these very deeply (please weigh in though the comments section if you have a better recommendation!)  It lets me record audio through the built-in mic, saves the tracks, allows for track clipping, and has the ability to export AIFF or MP3 versions of the recordings.  It can be pretty slick to grab audio of a vocalizing bird for later research or documentation, but the downside is that the built-in mic is meant to record voice right next to it, not a faint sound being heard in the distance.  Enter the Edutige EIM-001 i-Microphone Voice Recorder, a small mic that plugs into the earphone jack and promises a 12 decibel boost to the device's recording volume.  


After trying it I can say that it indeed boosts the recording performance of my iPhone- check out the examples below.  It doesn't necessarily produce professional-quality audio but I think that for the price (around $25) & size (about like the end of a pencil) it will add a lot of utility to my iPhone, letting me document birds & research the ID of unknown bird vocalization without toting along a separate recorder.  


Marsh sounds, Jackson County, Colorado, 25 March 2012 recorded with iPhone built-in mic.

Same marsh sounds recorded moments later with EIM-001 i-Microphone mounted on iPhone.  (p.s. My herp-pro buddy Joey Kellner tells me the crickety sounds are from Western Chorus Frogs.)

Western Screech-Owl, Alamosa County, Colorado, 30 March 2012 recorded with iPhone built-in mic.

Same owl recorded moments later with EIM-001 i-Microphone mounted on iPhone.  While still faint, the owl comes through much better with the iPhone mic'd up.  There's also an increase in the background noise, but I got sufficient audio to generate a definitive spectrograph of the vocalization (nice, as this is an eBird review species for the county & so I could attach the image to my checklist in the comments section.)