Maumee Wetlands Barred Owls, stream trickle, and distant frog chorus. 3am, 31 May 2016, Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area near Maumee, Indiana. © Lang Elliott. Please play at a moderate to low volume to simulate a natural listening experience.

During my recent recording expedition, I spent the night in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area near Maumee Ohio. I camped along an inlet stream about a hundred feet from a large lake (pictured above). I set my mic near a small riffle in the stream and fell asleep.

At 3am in the morning, I awakened to the hoots of a Barred Owl, set against the distant chorus of bullfrogs and green frogs sounding off from a swampy portion of the lake. I started recording and crossed my fingers. At first, the owl gave several down-slurred hooo-aw calls. Then it switched to the classic who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you’all. After several minutes, and to my absolute delight, another began answering in the distance. I was quite pleased, lying there in my tent not daring to move for fear my mic would pick up the noise.

And then things got even more exciting. The distant owl flew closer and was met by the other. An excited outburst ensued, a vocal performance termed “caterwauling,” in which two or more individuals (probably a mated pair in this case) participate in quite a noisy exchange of hoots and hollers … a “vocal reunion” of sorts, which I believe to be a animated celebration of family life. How could they not be having fun?

This was a high point in my journey. I was thrilled to capture such a nice mix. I even believe I have a “thing” going on with Barred Owls. They seem attracted to me. No need to “hoot them in” by imitating their calls. All I need to do is camp out in likely habitat and wait patiently for their appearance.

Do you like this soundscape? For me, it is supremely dimensional and engaging, yet has a meditative quality. Such a lovely, immersive mix of owl, frog, and water sounds … with emphasis on the owls of course (they’re loud, but not too loud). I doubt that I could orchestrate a nicer soundscape that features the caterwauling of a pair.

p.s. listen closely at the end and you’ll hear several howls from a distant coyote.

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