Hermit Thrush singing at dusk. 8:30pm, 7 June 2000, Adirondack Mountains near Paul Smiths, New York. © Lang Elliott. Note: this is a 3D binaural soundscape; please listen with headphones.
Wrap your ears around this splendid recording: a lone hermit thrush, calling and singing at dusk against a backdrop of spring peepers. I made this recording in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Imagine being there … It is near dark in pine woods, with ponds and marshes in all directions. The forest floor is soft and springy. Bracken ferns brush against your legs. Countless distant peepers fill the air with a continuous blanket of sound, a soothing backdrop for the thrush’s exalted performance. How exciting to witness this awe-inspiring transition from dusk into the night.
Like the Robin Singing at Dusk that I featured in an earlier post, this recording includes the sounds of just a few species. The hermit thrush and background spring peepers are the primary sound instruments. Listen also for the croaks of green frogs, which provide a bottom-end to the recording. Other subtle bird sounds can be heard at times, including calls of a robin and songs of a white-throated-sparrow and a chipping sparrow (or is that a junco?). A very distant hermit thrush sounds off toward the end.
Whatever the explanation, this relatively simple combination of sounds has a sublime and lofty effect on the human psyche (at least on my human psyche). Therefore, I plan is to include this soundscape in my forthcoming “Tranquility” production. It will probably be the last recording featured, preceded and cross-faded with the robin-and-peeper recording … the one gently transitioning into the other for a supremely relaxing ending.
Does this sound like a good plan?
Thrush Music – a poem © Lang Elliott
the songs of thrushes soothe my ear
the wood, the hermit and veery
bright cascades of flutey notes
balm for the sad and weary
hermit begins with whistle clear
veery spirals downward
wood thrush ends with ringing trill
that calms the twilight hour
the songs of thrushes touch my heart
and lull my mind to peace
my frets and worries wash away …
NOTE: The Hermit Thrush’s two most common calls are featured in this recording. These include a nasal “way” and a staccato “churt”. The functions of these calls are not entirely clear, although churt calls are often given in situations of concern. Since I backed away from my soundscape microphone during the recording, I do not believe that the thrush was concerned about my presence (I was sitting quietly on a fallen log nearly a hundred feet away). On the contrary, I believe the thrush was relaxed and behaving much like Wood Thrushes often do at dusk, mixing both songs and calls in the evening twilight, as if celebrating the the end of a busy day.
Finding this recording on a dark sub-zero night in Western Maine was such a delight. Thanks My favorite bird poem, one that addresses that we can feel both joy and sorrow from their songs, is by Charlotte Smith: Sweet poet of the woods, a long adieu! Farewell soft mistrel of the early year! Ah! ’twill be long ere thou shalt sing anew, And pour thy music on the evenings dull ear. Whether on spring thy wandering flights await, Or whether silent in our groves you dwell, The pensive muse shall own thee for her mate, And still protect the song… Read more »
This is truly one of the best soundscape recording I’ve ever heard. And I have listend nature sound recordings back from 70’s. There is simply something so purely magical in the atmosphere. I’d like to get the whole recording on high quality CD.
Leif: I wish it lasted longer, but the thrush left after about 7 minutes. I could send you a FLAC version and then you could burn your own CD. I’d have to charge for my time. If you’re interested, please send me an email via my contact page under the “About” tab.
Dear Lang! Of course I’m intrested in all of your works. I do have a pile of your great recordings and books. It is always pleasure – time after time, to spend time with them and immerse myself into the Creation’s Song. Just so enormously glorious. I’m going to buy still many many titles from you. All the best for all your work. I do really hope you manage to get this type of atmosphere that’s really long…A kind of minimalistic soundscape; a solitary thrush singing e.g. with distant frog chorus, or just vice versa.
Yep … I’m certainly workin’ on getting exactly those kinds of recordings. Occasionally nature plays along with my grand plan, but most of the time it doesn’t.
[…] works in the swamps by night, alone with the sounds. Sometimes, at dusk or at dawn, the birds will sing against the background of the […]
when might we expect the tranquility recording? i would definitely buy that one. this is one of the most exquisite songs/recordings i’ve ever heard.
billie: I’m actually working on six new titles, plus I’m re-designing the store’s website. So I can’t give you a timeline right now, other than to say I’m committed to creating that title (which may be called “Gentle Bird Songs” as opposed to “Tranquility” … not sure yet).
thank you for responding–no pressure at all. just was curious and absolutely love this and the robin one. There is construction noise in my neighborhood lately, and i am thinking i may have to walk around with blue tooth headphones and recordings such as yours so as not to go whacky. 🙂
I work as an outdoor educator in Maine. The campers I take into the forest are mesmerized by this bird when I asked them to quietly listen. One of my favorites. A camper once said that it sounded like a fairy trying to pull you into the magic of the woods. Kids are so intuitive. Thanks for this picture and the recording. I played 3 times. Each time it was summer in the forest in Maine.
Thank you so much for this. Just heartbreakingly lovely. I love how not “busy” the recording is. Just the few simple sounds and then that gorgeous melody. I so love your posts.
Lang – Swamp Sparrow at 3:54!
Kurt: Are you sure it’s not a Junco? The habitat was pine woods (mostly red pines, if my memory serves me) with bracken fern thick in the understory. Not where I’d expect to find a Swampy. There were plenty of wetlands nearby, but the nearest was still maybe six hundred feet away.
Could be a Junco or Chippy Lang! With all the peepers going that’s a perfect spot for a Swamp Sparrow. Your recording was very similar to the same sound in my back 40, where Swamps sing constantly. Now that you say Piney woods, chippy it could be. It’s always fun to try to pull out different species from deep within the layers of sound in the woods! Thanks for the opportunity!
The peepers were definitely quite a distance away. The pine woods was thick with pine and had a fairly dry understory, populated with lots of bracken fern. Not at all swamp sparrow habitat, although swampy’s definitely are found in the peeper’s habitat, maybe two hundred yards away.
Hearing the Wood Thrush was for me like going home. Every evening in Rainbow Lake the Woodthrush would serenade us into the still of the night. Listening to this beautiful recording makes me realize how much it is missed.
Gail: So you could hear loons from the chicken coop?
Was our house on Jones Pond Rd. referred to as the Chicken Coup?? Well I heard loons flying every morning. It was wonderful. A day without Loons did not seem right!
When Ken initially built the house, it was a simple shed roof affair supported by wooden piers. So friends referred to it as Ken’s “chicken coup”. Of course, once the basement was added it was transformed and that reference evaporated. So I was thinking you probably knew the history. Then again, would it be wise for the seller to mention that to the buyer? : >)
How beautiful! One of my favorites along with the Wood Thrush.Thank you, you light up my day! I used to live at the foothills of the Adirondacks, now living in Florida. I do so miss all the songbirds of the north. 🙁
Lang–I love all of these beautiful sound recordings you have been sending our way. The only way it could be better is to be there in person. Ahhhhh……
So very lovely.Thank you for sharing! I recorded the coqui in Pattias, P.R. Play it frequently. It still holds Peace; as they die out.
Raye: I’m actually working on a Coqui production, over an hour of continuous listening featuring a series of fantastic recordings I captured on night at high elevations in El Yunque National Park. I hope to publish it sometime this spring.
Thank you Lang! Thank you Hermit Thrush! Ruth
Lang, Your recordings are great!! Have you ever captured the call of the white throated sparrow? On my first trip to the Adirondacks, as a teenager, I heard it’s call and found it very pleasant and have always associated it with that area.
Thanks for your offerings.
Tom: Yes, of course. I’ve recorded and videotaped White-throated Sparrows many, many times. You might want to check out the cinematic portrait in my Theater of Birds; it’s near the bottom of the page:
Thanks for doing that, Lang!
You’re welcome Claudius!
Marvelous Lang! A Haikku for you:
A Hermit Thrush sings,
It’s beauty captures our mind,
Let’s us rest in peace.
Oh thank you. I’d never read the Hardy poem. Like Frost’s – it’s a little haunting. As is the thrush’s song.
It’s funny that many poets chose thrush song for bleak themes. Even Whitman considered it as fitting for grief. I personally don’t feel that connection. For me, it is 100% uplifting, associated with the finer, rarified things of nature (at least from a human point of view), bird songs that ascend into the ether and connect us to the heavens.
Me … a scientist? : >)
I just loved that stanza of the Frost poem. But I didn’t find any gloom or hauntedness in it at all…. Just that noble “YES!” to life that so many birdsongs emanate.
This music makes me so impatient for spring. It gives me hope. “Come In” is perhaps my favorite Frost poem. And this stanza surely suits your wonderful work here:
The last of the light of the sun
That had died in the west
Still lived for one song more
In a thrush’s breast.
OK, and here’s a stanza from “The Darkling Thrush” by Thomas Hardy … not Hardy was in the most positive frame of mind:
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
Exactly the poem that came immediately to my mind!
Ed: You must get similar performances right there in your backyard in late spring and early summer. Maybe even with a Saw-whet chiming-in?
Gorgeous. I can almost smell the forest 🙂
sound can certainly evoke smells, or at least memories of smells.
How about this….
I took a day to search for God
And found him not. But as I trod
By rocky ledge, through woods untamed,
Just where one scarlet lily flamed,
I saw his footprint in the sod.
Then suddenly all unaware
Far off in the deep shadows, where
A solitary hermit thrush
Sang through the holy twilight hush
I heard his voice upon the air……..
From “Vestigia” by Bliss Carman
I like the prospect of your forthcoming “Tranquility”. Lovely. I’ll be watching for it.
Don: That’s a really nice poem. I’m reading now about Bliss Carman (1861-1929), a Canadian poet who spent most of his life in the US.
lovely poem-and so true.
I prefer the veery over the hermit, but this recording is true comfort and it must be wonderful for you to revisit the day in memory.
Jason: The problem is that I can’t outdo this one. It’ll only be downhill from here!
That’s why your idea to put it at the end is superb!!
How beautiful and rare to listen to these wonderful songs of nature. I hope future generations will be able to hear them, too. Thank you Lang! You are awsome.
Hi Lang Elliot
Your recordings of sound nature is the most beautiful music of the sacred mystical philharmonic instruments of Life’s love to Humans.
This communion creates serenity in the soul
Crowns the mind with Wholeness
Sadness is changed into calm ecstasy
Where desappearing individuality
Becomes unity with Infinity
A gift of Light-Healing…
That shades off all barriers
And encourage the Warrior
To surrender to Peace
It’s just an opinion, I know, but there could surely be no more beautiful and impressive song from any other bird. It sounds otherworldly. They have always been my favorite. Thank you for spoiling us with so many beautiful recordings this week!
From deep secluded recesses,
From the fragrant cedars and the ghostly pines so still,
Came the carol of the bird.
Walt Whitman, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”
The hermit thrush, first heard when I was in Montana, is my very favorite bird song. Totally magical, it transports me to a tranquil place in my mind.