Boardwalk at Erie National Wildlife Refuge Thunderstorm along boardwalk at Erie National Wildlife Refuge. 5:30am, 2 June 2016, near Cambridge Springs in northwestern Pennsylvania. © Lang Elliott. Note: the low rumble of the thunder can only be fully appreciated by listening with headphones or speakers having good low frequency response.

In early June, at the end of my rather frenetic recording expedition, I visited a friend in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania, not far from Erie. I spent one night there, sleeping on my friend’s porch and enjoying periods of heavy rain. As usual, I rose early. The rain had stopped, so I headed to a boardwalk trail in nearby Erie National Wildlife Refuge, hoping to record birds singing against a backdrop of drip from the trees.

Arriving on location at the break of dawn, I headed down the boardwalk but was surprised by a loud thunderclap followed by a major downpour. I ran full-speed back to my car. After about fifteen minutes, the heavy rain subsided, so I donned my rain jacket and ventured back on to the boardwalk, walking until I found shelter under a large hemlock tree that would protect my microphone from the drizzling rain.

Closing my eyes, I was struck by the simple beauty of the soundscape … the pitter-patter of the rain, subtle bird songs (including Scarlet Tanager and Wood Thrush), and distant thunder. I recorded for nearly twenty minutes, all the while completely absorbed by the sounds. I would have gone longer, but another downpour ensued that was so violent that it sent me once again running back to my car, with my rain jacket wrapped tightly around my recorder and microphone.

This was the last recording of my journey. That day, I drove back to Ithaca (my hometown), mostly in the rain, quite happy that my last capture was such a relaxing and immersive soundscape.

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