How to make a parabolic reflector from a plant pot

This spring why not eavesdrop in on the birds on your patch by making your very own parabolic reflector with items you can find around the home and garden and amplify the sounds of nature!

Ben Porter with parabolic

This spring, documentary filmmaker Nina Constable is teaming up with naturalists Lucy Hodson and Ben Porter to bring people across the UK together in one of this seasons most amazing natural phenomenon’s, the dawn chorus.

Ben has designed a “Plant Parabolic”, a simple device that amplifies and records the sounds around you bringing you closer to nature than ever before. The device can be made from things you can find around the home and you can have fun with trying out different items to see what you find most effective. Swap out your plant pot for a mixing bowl, a dustbin lid or even an umbrella and see how loud you can go!

Lucy Hodson with a parabolic made using a mixing bowl.
Lucy Hodson with a parabolic made using a mixing bowl.

Follow the how-to instructions below (a downloadable instruction sheet, and a video on Nina Constable’s YouTube channel, are also available), and get creative – make your own and head out May 2nd to record the Dawn Chorus on your doorstep. Send your creations and your recordings in to, share on social media use the hashtag #PlantPotParabolic (you can also tag @benwildimages @Lucylapwing @ninaconstablemedia), and we’ll create a symphony from across the whole of the UK.

Top tips for using your plant pot parabolic:

  • Try finding a bowl which isn’t too deep and has a shallow, sloping ‘parabolic’ shape to best amplify the sound.
  • Download the ‘RØDE reporter’ app for IOS or ‘RecForge II’ app for android for greatest control of your sound recording.
  • Plug in your headphones and use the ‘monitor’ setting in your microphone to reduce any wind noise.
  • Head out in the early hours of the morning to be in with the best chance of catching the cacophony of dawn chorus
  • Why not try using your parabolic to eavesdrop on the sounds of insects, reptiles, animals and anything else you can find!

Now try it out – head out on your doorstep and see what you can find!

Nina Constable with a plant pot parabolic
Nina Constable with a plant pot parabolic.

Step 1

Preparing the base

Make sure your piece of wood fits comfortably on the inside of your bowl at the base, trim down a bit if necessary.

Parabolic 1

Step 2

Fitting your handle

Fix your handle onto the outside of the base of the bowl by screwing into the piece of wood which sits of the inside of the bowl’s base.

Parabolic 2

Step 3

Attach the recorder

Make two small holes in the plastic base of the bowl using your screw driver or a knife, either side of the piece of wood. Thread a short piece of elastic or bungee cord through these holes and adjust before tying in place. You can now use this piece of elastic to securely attached your phone or recording mic onto the base of the bowl.

Parabolic 3

Main image: Ben Porter with a parabolic reflector, made using a plant pot.

Illustrations by Sarah Dowling.