Dawn chorus featuring Wood Thrushes, in hardwood forest on a ridge overlooking the Missouri River. 6:30am, 29 July 2016. Near Columbia, Missouri. © Lang Elliott. Please play at a low volume to simulate a natural listening experience.
Hi everyone! I’m fresh back from my recording expedition and plan to publish a series of seven or eight blog posts featuring highlights, this being my first installment. Note this process may take a few weeks, especially given that I will be “on retreat” all of next week, spending time with friends in a picturesque cottage situated on a bluff overlooking Lake Ontario … much-needed time to relax, swim, hike, bike, be present, and dream of things to come.
Ridge Top Hardwoods
I arrived in Missouri on the evening of July 28. I spent the night sleeping in my tent in a beautiful hardwood forest along a ridge overlooking the “Big Muddy,” otherwise known as the Missouri River (see photo above). Awakening at first light, I was completely surprised by the rich chorus of Wood Thrushes, sounding off from all directions. As usual, I had my soundscape microphone aleady in position, with a cable running to my recorder placed next to me in my tent. So all I had to do was turn my recorder on, hit “record”, and then doze off to the melodic chorus, quite unexpected for late July!
It proved to be an unseasonably hot morning, the temperature quickly climbing from around 70F into the mid 80s. By mid-morning, cicadas were sounding off everywhere from the tall forest trees. With my parabolic microphone in hand, I hiked the trail along the ridge and managed to snatch a closeup portrait of the raspy buzzes of Robinson’s Cicada, Tibicen robinsoniana, an eastern species that is at the western edge of its range in central Missouri:
Raspy buzzes of Robinson’s Cicada. 9:30am, 29 July 2016. Recorded in hardwood forest near Columbia, Missouri. © Lang Elliott.
I spent most of my day visiting with my sister Jackie and my good friend Carl Gerhardt, a frog behavior expert and professor at the University of Missouri. At dusk, I broke free of my social obligations and once again hiked the ridge trail. To my complete delight, Scissor-grinder Cicadas, Neotibicen pruinosa, put on quite a performance in the waning light and I managed to capture a splendid soundscape, also featuring call-volleys from a lone Wood Thrush that was no doubt settling-in for the night:
Scissor-Grinder Cicadas with calls of a lone Wood Thrush. 9:20pm, 29 July 2016. Recorded in hardwood forest near Columbia, Missouri. © Lang Elliott. Don’t play too loudly or the cicadas may rattle your ears!
As darkness unfolded, a host of insect sounds took to the stage, the most prominent being the Common True Katydid, Pterophylla camellifolia, whose loud and harsh calls are virtually impossible to miss:
Common True Katydid closeup recording. 11pm, 29 July 2016. Recorded in hardwood forest near Columbia, Missouri. © Lang Elliott.
Following my ear for a pleasant mix of night-time sounds, I homed-in on a small pond in a forest clearing. I rather like this spacious soundscape, featuring Green Frogs and insects (listen for the harsh calls of True Katydids, the trills of a variety of crickets, and the high-pitched zzzitick calls of an Oblong-winged Katydid):
Green Frogs and Insects. 11:30pm, 29 July 2016. Recorded at a small pond in a clearing, surrounded by hardwood forest, near Columbia, Missouri. © Lang Elliott.
With midnight upon me, I decided to head for nearby Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, a large expanse of floodplain wetlands and wet meadows along the east edge of the Missouri River. Along the way, I stopped at a stream crossing to take one last listen to the forest soundscape, before heading into the marshland. And this is what I heard:
Insect and Bullfrog chorus. 12:30am, 30 July 2016. Recorded at a stream crossing surrounded by hardwood forest, near Columbia, Missouri. © Lang Elliott.
Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area
Arriving at Eagle Buffs Conservation Area, I quickly found my way to a marshy area and set up my soundscape microphone, with the intention of recording the crickets and katydids singing from the grassy edge. To my surprise and delight, an immature owl (I think a Great Horned Owl) began giving screeches (begging calls, I presume) from a patch of trees just on the other side of the wetland. In the distance, a Barred Owl gave periodic hoo-aw calls (note: it is certainly possible that the immature is a Barred Owl, although my best guess is Great Horned Owl). At one point, a Great Blue Heron gives a series of croaks as it lands somewhere in the marsh. Here is a brief snippet of the recording:
Insect chorus with owlet screeches, recorded at marsh edge. 1:00am, 30 July 2016. Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, along the Missouri River near Columbia, Missouri. © Lang Elliott.
At another marshy location, I gathered a soundscape featuring two Fall Field Crickets, Gryllus pennslvanicus, chirping at the bottom end (frequency-wise) and a Nebraska Conehead, Conocephalus nebrascensis, repeating its two-second buzzes at the upper end. In between are the trills of several other species of crickets. To my ear, this is a pleasant soundscape, the only weakness being a lack of low frequency sounds (excepting the subtle water sounds that occur periodically). I’m curious about what my readers think of this recording … is it pretty, or do the high-pitched insect sounds overwhelm one’s ears?
Insect chorus at marsh edge, featuring two Fall Field Crickets chirping at the low end and Nebraska Conehead giving very high-pitched buzzes at the high end. 2:00am, 30 July 2016. Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, along the Missouri River near Columbia, Missouri. © Lang Elliott.
Growing tired, I decided to head back to my camp. But before leaving the refuge, I stopped one last time and was thrilled by a large chorus of Northern Cricket Frogs (yes, they sound rather like crickets!). What’s more, as I walked it in its direction I came across an Oblong-winged Katydid, Amblycorypha oblongifolia, calling loudly from the grass. This katydid has a very unique song that sounds to me like zzzitick! First I gathered a soundscape portrait of the species, followed by a parabolic microphone closeup. Below is a compilation featuring both recordings, each a minute long, and both with a rousing chorus of cricket frogs in the background:
Two recordings featuring the songs of an Oblong-winged Katydid, Northern Cricket Frogs, and ground crickets. 2:30am, 30 July 2016. Recorded in tall grass at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, along the Missouri River near Columbia, Missouri. © Lang Elliott.
I hope you enjoyed these recordings. I must say that I’m quite happy with the results of my brief sojourn along the Missouri River. My next blog post will cover my subsequent visit to two tallgrass prairie preserves in southwestern Missouri. After that, you’ll hear samplings from Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, and even New York … the highlights of my 6000 mile late summer journey. So please stay tuned!
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