Weather proofing

Disclaimer: the following is advice gleaned from lots of sources and we cannot be held responsible if your gear gets wet!

Some of the best nights for nocmig recording are overcast, even with occasional drizzle or mist. So how do you record without getting all your gear soaked? Possible solutions depend on what you’re using.

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Yeti USB microphone protected by clingfilm cover (Simon Gillings)

Portable recorders placed in buckets can be protected by fixing clingfilm over the top of the bucket. A similar approach can be taken for USB microphones. As long as the cling film is tight this seems to have minimal impact on detecting bird calls (but may be a problem for higher frequencies, e.g. bats). Rain on clingfilm is deafening and if there’s strong wind the clingfilm can create an unpleasant booming noise, but it does the job of keeping gear dry.

For shotgun mics, “deadcat” style wind baffles can deflect some rain. Parabolic mics can be supplied with lycra windshields which may deal with light rain. For both shotgun and parabolc mics, some recordists suggest that the mics aren’t permanently damaged by rain and that a few hours in an airing cupboard dries them out without permanent damage. Microphones can be wrapped in clingfilm (but beware build up of condensation inside). This does not seem to affect bird detection, but as the clingfilm can’t be stretched tight (unlike over a bucket), slight wind can cause very fine crackles that are a distraction when scanning recordings. Another option is to use very thin umbrella or tent material to make a waterproof cover. This works very well to protect the equipment but does cause some subtle frequency bands on the spectrogram (see below).

Garden bird song recording without (left) and with (right) umbrella material cover (Simon Gillings)

Vertically oriented parabolas may have a tendency to fill up with water – this can be alleviated by making a small drain hole at the base. Depending on the construction of the dish a small drill could be used. For some plastic dishes it may be safer to use the tip of a fine soldering iron to melt a small hole as drilling could cause the dish to crack.

Box for keeping recorder dry outdoors (David Darrell-Lambert)
Box for keeping recorder dry outdoors (David Darrell-Lambert)

Recorders connected to mics can be places in waterproof duffel bags or storage boxes.

Protecting cable connections may be more important. Does anyone have good solutions for protecting XLR or TRS cable connections? Let us know on the contact form.


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