Sound Approach Win The BTO Marsh Award for Innovative Ornithology


BTO Press Release – 4th November 2015


The Sound Approach has been awarded the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Marsh Award for innovative Ornithology. The award has been presented to the team for their valuable contribution to ornithology.

Image by Nick CaroThe Sound Approach are famous for their groundbreaking and innovative approach, using books with CDs, and more recently iBooks, to popularise birdsong. Their publications aim to promote higher standards in sound identification, to species but also where possible to age and sex, and their work has often led to new insights in taxonomy, identifying potential new species (and re-discovering old ones).


Mike Toms, Associate Director of Scientific Communications at the BTO commented,

“On the handful of occasions when I have met and talked to the team I have been struck by the passion and expertise these birders and sound recordists have. They have brought the science of birdsong to life through their innovative approach to communicating its richness and revealing the secrets contained within the calls and songs they record.”

The team’s dedication to their work spans over two decades and is showcased by their vast archive of bird sounds, containing over 56,000 recordings of more than 1,000 species. With a particular focus on the Western Palearctic, its standards and attention to detail make it one of the most important privately owned archives in the world.


The award ceremony, hosted by the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) took place  on October 28th at the Mall Galleries London, and saw six other awards being presented through the society.


Further information


Their first title, The Sound Approach to birding, was published in 2006. Teaching not only by audio but also by visual means, it revolutionised the way people listened to bird song. Annotated sonagrams allowed readers to see sounds as well as hear them, and made sound analysis much more accessible than it had been before. Over the following nine years four more titles were published focusing on a range of topics. For example,Undiscovered owls explored the owls of the Western Palearctic while Catching the Bugoffered a master class in finding and listening to birds on your own local patch.


During this time digital publishing came of age, and the Sound Approach seized on the opportunity to make an understanding of bird song even more accessible. Their in house design and graphics team worked hard to develop each of their printed titles into sleek and interactive iBooks that are now available on iTunes. Their new eSonagram technology allows you to watch and follow the sound in an exciting new way. With the simple tap of the screen the sounds play as you read the accompanying text.


The Sound Approach were at the forefront of an exciting discovery this year when it was unveiled that Magnus Robb and the team had re-discovered an owl species – Strix butleri – that was only known to science from a single specimen collected in 1878. When they first found the owl in northern Oman in 2013 they thought it was a new species, but DNA from a specimen caught and released in March this year showed that the Omani Owl was in fact S butleri. Thanks to Magnus’s discovery of Omani Owl it was shown that not one but two species of Strix owls occur in the deserts of Arabia.


Photos supplied by Nick Caro


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