Equipment

Two key questions for anyone starting out are:

  • What do I need to start recording nocturnal bird migration?
  • How much do I need to spend?

As a minimum you’ll need a microphone to place outside and something that digitally saves the sounds detected by the microphone. Then you’ll need a computer on which to review the recordings and a pair of headphones for listening to individual bird detections. There are countless permutations of microphone–recorder, but the right option for you will depend on what you already have, where you want to record and your underlying motivation (ranging from detecting garden ticks to making high quality recordings). Answering these questions will determine how much you need to spend.

Below is an outline of some of the popular options for nocmig recording, arranged roughly in order of increasing cost (assuming you already own a smartphone and desktop PC/laptop). Some of the information is based on personal experience and some on discussion with other nocmiggers. To see examples of how some of these solutions have been used, see the gallery. To see/hear recordings from some different kit, see the Comparisons page. There will be options we haven’t yet considered – please let us know what we’ve missed via the Contact form.

Option Cost Pros Cons
Smartphone £0 Nothing to buy! Limited range; low quality; phone must be weatherproofed; can be hard to extract recordings
Smartphone with external microphone £30+  Phone can be kept indoors Better range but still limited by amp quality of phone; need mains or backup power for full night recording; phone may not power some mics
Desktop PC/laptop connected to external microphone £10–120 Entry level with little outlay; great for finding out if nocmigging is for you! Tied to mains power; PC/laptop needs to be indoors; cheap mics can have audio artefacts
AudioMoth £50 Very portable; runs on 3 AA batteries; fully programmable on/off cycles Range may be limited (but surprisingly good); not currently waterproof
Portable sound recorder £100+ Recorder can be used in field; good sound quality; in-built mics can have good range Recorder needs to be weatherproofed; can be power hungry and may need to be mains-connected
Portable sound recorder with external shotgun microphone Mic = £200+ Improved range; recorder can be kept inside, mic outside  Mic is directional but does not amplify; needs batteries or plug-in power
Portable sound recorder with external parabolic microphone Mic + dish =

£800+

Greater range and volume; recorder can be kept inside, mic outside Not very portable; currently few cheap options
Bespoke wildlife recorder £1000+ Purpose built; programmable on/off cycles Cost

Disclaimer: where we mention particular products/brands, this doesn’t mean we endorse them over similar alternatives!