Minidisc plus cassetterecorder
A contribution to a discussion on Birdchat dec. 2002
John van der Woude  -  www.jvanderw.nl 

I have been using a minidisc player/recorder for several years in the field,
both for playing prerecorded discs as for record&playback when hearing an
unknown sound. However, the latter (record&playback) was not as quick as I
was used to with my old simple cassette recorder.

So the present situation is as follows when I go overseas for a birding
trip. At home I make a useful selection of sounds from the commercial CD's
and cassettes, recording them directly onto a minidisc with an analog cable,
a simple and quick procedure. I also make an index on one A4 paper sheet of
the species plus track numbers of this minidisc (maximum is 255, mostly this
is enough). I don't use names on the minidisc, just the track numbers,
because I find scrolling through numbers easier than through names. So this
is my reference material for the trip.
For recording in the field I use a small but professional cassette recorder
(Sony WM-D3; a refurbished one from the web) plus a small battery-powered
strong speaker and a small directional microphone (Sennheiser MKE300). Of
course I use the speaker also for playback of the reference minidisc. For
this whole set we made a small shoulder bag measuring 20x13x9 cm with holes
for the speaker front and the cassete recorder front. This set suits me very
well. I don't have to change discs from a recording to a prerecorded one,
and I have a very quick record&playback with the cassette recorder - just in
a flash and by touch rewind those 5 or 10 seconds of the recording. On my
minidisc the closing of a recording session and going back takes more time
and buttons, and then I may be too late.

Should you merely want a reference collection in the field, then just a
minidisc player (with separate speaker or with ear phones) is fine of
course.
Should you only do the record&playback thing in the field, then you may
reconsider if you shouldn't buy a simple cassette recorder indeed, also
because these include a speaker. However, this speaker may be too soft, and
the recorder may be not sturdy enough (sockets do break). Of course you do
still need a directional microphone but this can range from the cheap video
type to a really long Sennheiser.

BTW I am by no means using this record&playback constantly in the field (on
my last trip, to The Gambia, hardly at all because of the high visibility of
the birds), and so my total contribution to the presumed disturbance of
birds is minimal I think.

Despite all this stuff I don't regard myself a "nature recordist": this is
merely for finding or identifying birds. OK, on the cassette you will later
often find useful recordings and I put some of them on my web site. But the
main purpose is checking sounds, finding that hidden bird, etcetera.
So I also think it's good to have some discussion about this on Birdchat and
not needing to dive into a web group of "nature recordists" (sorry Doug).
This would be a separate hobby - just like with bird photography and
videoing. Don't we still need some info about which video camera would be
best for just getting some bird videograbs from a trip, without any
pretention of making a movie?