Dawn Chorus in a small meadow after heavy rain. 5:30am, 7 May 2016, near Brooktondale, New York. © Lang Elliott. This is a 3D binaural recording; please wear headphones and don’t play too loudly!
Rising once again at 4am, I gobbled down some cereal and then rushed off to meet with my friend Melissa Groo, a talented wildlife photographer who lives along the upper reaches of Shindagin Hollow. We drove down into the hollow then up again to a beautiful wet meadow at the edge of the forest. Arriving at about 5:10am, just as the birds were beginning to sing, I quickly positioned my soundscape microphone in the middle of the field.
It had rained the night before and at first I was irritated at the incessant “whoosh” from a swollen creek at the bottom of the meadow. But when I closed my eyes and listened, I decided it sounded fine … great in fact … because it would provide a “warm and fuzzy envelope” for the dawn chorus. What’s more, a woodcock was peenting nearby and I knew that he alone would make the recording worthwhile. So I hit the record button and we retreated to my car, driving back down into the hollow so that our chatting would not disturb things.
Back in my studio, I am delighted with what I hear. Even though it’s still early May, there’s a lot of activity. What fun it is to discern the different species and then relax back into the totality of the soundscape, appreciating the gentle loveliness of the mix — whooshy backdrop included. Below is a list of the species that I hear. Maybe you will notice one or two more?
- American Robin (singing in background throughout)
- Wood Thrush (song at 0:06)
- American Woodcock (nasal peents starting at 0:07, plus flight twittering at 1:05)
- Mourning Dove (coos, starting at 0:08)
- Field Sparrow (musical, whistled songs; first loud one at 0:16)
- Eastern Towhee (songs … “drink-your-teee”; fairly loud one at 0:20)
- Brown Thrasher (chjjj calls … soft in background at 1:22)
- Ovenbird (one fairly loud song overlaps Field Sparrow song at 5:16)
- Dark-eyed Junco (musical trills, a fairly loud one at 6:07)
I am absolutely in love with this recording, which at first I thought was going to be ruined by the whoosh of the runoff. Boy was I wrong! Or maybe I’m deluded and only think it’s great because the sun shined through this morning for the first time in days, erasing all negativity from my judgmental mind. So I call upon you, my beloved readers and listeners, to tell me if it’s wonderful or not …
Friends … if you find that my blog has a positive impact on your life, please help support my effort by making a modest donation.
[…] that I posted another recording from the same locationbut made earlier in the season. It is called Meadow After Rain. I posted it last year. I don’t like it as well as the one featured above, but it’s […]
So alive and beautiful, your work is a deep service to others and to Nature. Thank you.
You’re welcome Donna! I’m glad that you like this soundscape.
I look forward to opening my email to hear your latest capture…this Is one I can listen to over and over …perfect interweaving of sounds!
Lang, this really is perfect! Without the “whoosh” it would have missed a soothing ostinato that really makes it so beautiful and sort of “filled-out.” And the woodcock made me laugh out loud with delight! Thank you for the beautiful recording, and, as others have said, the photographic context. You are really transporting this busy city worker into realms of healing!
Marilyn: “Ostinato” is a new word for me. Definition: a continually repeated musical phrase or rhythm (or: a constantly recurring melodic fragment). I like that. Most dawn choruses are full of ostinatos simply because each bird generally repeats itself throughout. The magic happens when a group of birds combine, either by chance or by design, into a larger ostinato that the human ear is able to perceive and appreciate.
Very nice, I thank Melissa Groo for her post and link to this. Some will be interested in noting the wing-produced display flight twitter of the woodcock culminating in that silvery aerial song at about 2:00 on this recording. All part of male breeding display. Flight twittering repeated at about 6:00 but I could not really hear the song that time. Also, was that a chipping sparrow trilling in the latter part of this audio clip? Protection and management of meadows is a big issue in many parts of the world. We at WildMetro are doing a desired conditions analysis… Read more »
David: I believe that’s a junco trilling toward the end. Very melodious. The trills of Chipping Sparrows are “usually” more mechanical-sounding that musical. But there are certainly exceptions, so it’s always best to verify by sight (which we couldn’t because we were somewhere else when the recording was made).
Yes, junco makes sense. I thought of swamp sparrow too, but habitat looks wrong. I am not the greatest expert on bird songs; it took me a while to realize how much of a new dimension it added to being in the field. And of course it is vital for bird survey work. Thanks for what you do, Lang Elliott.
No habitat there for swampies, which are common hereabouts, but only in shrub swamps and marshes.
Lang, It’s wonderful. Aided by your timed announcements of what’s coming up next.
Mike: I was wondering if listeners would use those times to help with identifications. In light of you comment, I’ll make an effort to provide a timeline on other recordings as well.
I’ve listened to this repeatedly. I like the tone quality contrast of the Woodcock! It’s not at all disruptive and is a lovely bit contrast. I also like the3 Mourning Dove in the mix – gentle tone quality, but noticeable because his song is much lower than the other songs. Again, it’s a nice touch of gentle contrast. Nature’s orchestration is so splendid!
Lisa: I’ve recorded woodcock a number of times and usually the peent is too loud, too disruptive. As you’ve pointed out, it blends-in nicely in this soundscape … a perfect fit!
Lang this one is wonderful. I’m sitting in my den reading before bed and it is absolutely peaceful listening to the chorus of the meadow. I will go to sleep with the most beautiful singer in the woods(my opinion!), the Wood Thrush, floating through my mind. Actually I thouriughly enjoy all of your recordings! Thank you and good night.
I would have wished you a good night, but I didn’t get to your comment until this morning. So instead I’ll just say “good morning and I’m glad to hear you like my recordings”.
This is lovely! My old fields in the hills of the Finger Lakes, NY have transitioned to woods and I don’t have the field sparrows or the woodcock any longer. I do miss their song.
Yes, that surely happens if there’s no periodical mowing. There’s a spot in Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management area that used to be superb for woodcock flight displays, but now it’s a tangle of saplings and briers, and the woodcock are gone. Luckily, there are plenty of open meadows nearby with good populations.
This is just SO relaxing to listen to. I was doing my bookwork when my SLOW internet finally loaded and started playing this and it was very pleasant. Thank you!
Lovely, almost musical texture with the stream and woodcock and mourning doves in the back ground, the constant robin and the other soloists coming and going. Thanks for sharing this true spring morning concert.
Working in the garden at dusk here in NE PA and heard newly arrived catbird and black and white warbler singing nearby.
John: I heard my first catbird this morning! And a friend heard a B&W Warbler yesterday.
We have neither the rushing stream nor the Ovenbird but the others can all be heard from our rural porch early in the morning along with Wild Turkey, Song Sparrow, Blue Jays, Crows, Cardinals, and the odd noisy train about 2 km away.
Where do you live Dean?
Such a variety of pleasant and interesting sounds. Love the reverberations of the Woodcock calls!
The woodcock really adds to the soundscape. I was so pleased to find him there calling when we arrived. Might have to go back for more of the flight display once the stream settles down.
Yes, you were wrong. . . it’s wonderful & I’m in love w/ it too!
: >) so glad to hear that you like it!
Absolutely great! Love the Woodcock and Field Sparrow!
Glad you like it Dick!
Neglected to say, yes–it is wonderful! Especially so through ‘phones.
My recordings are “binaural” which means you’ll get the full spatial impact when using earbuds or headphones. Listening over full-range speakers can be okay, or really bad depending. The internal speakers of most computers and mobile devices are generally tiny and sound horrible, especially with respect to my recordings.
Re: Binaural recording — Lang, I can’t thank you enough. You have spawned a convert to the method and my home-made SASS is more or less up and running with the rest of the kit dangling for the photo. (No animals were harmed in the manufacture of the fur.) Soon off to record Vesper Sparrow and Eastern Whip-poor-will at Pine Hill Road Grasslands in Lancaster, Mass., if it ever stops raining and blowing. No domain/website quite yet, but will post to Freesound until I figure out the tech details and refinements. Best, and thanks for the inspiration! I doubt I… Read more »
Norm: Your homemade SASS looks great! Good luck with getting Vesper Sparrow an Whip-poor-will. We have a few Vesper’s around here, though they are uncommon. No Whip-poor-wills at all, except maybe occasionally hearing one during migration.
I find the layers of sounds (including peent and stream babble) complemen, fit with, the visual layers in the landscape. There is sweet mystery in knowing that all of those sounds are coming from, yet hidden within, that scene!
Sharon: I agree that the photo is ever-so-important to convey a sense of place. I’m thinking I should take more photos so that one can get a 360-degree perspective. It could be a slide-show that accompanies the audio. Only problem is that it would take another hour or longer to put together. If I want to publish posts regularly, I have to do them fairly quickly so that my whole day doesn’t burn up as a result.
Yeah, I agree. Do that. Photos, poetry, sound. Only when you have the time, nevertheless.
Hail! Hail! The gang’s all here…
Jules: well, maybe 60% are back. That meadow will soon have a Blue-winged Warbler or two, perhaps a Willow Flycatcher, and often a Black-billed Cuckoo, and an Indigo Bunting … and I’m sure another few species I can’t think of right this instant.
Can’t wait for what you capture when they do all return. I love to play your recordings in the winter to remind me of what I am missing. I would open a few different recordings and play them all at once and it sounds like summer.
Wonderful, yes. I think you identified the majority of the birds. I could make out only perhaps a chestnut sided warbler at one point. But then I realized that I have my own microphone outside piping bird song into my kitchen. Stereo!
I often make that mistake when editing in my studio, especially if the window is open. I may hear crows cawing in a recording, only to realize they are outdoors!
ah, with a little sun on my face, could drowse to this. definitely like the stream in background. softens things nicely.
“softens things nicely” … I like that.
these days, because of all the rain we’ve had, there’s stream music most everywhere.
Yes, it is most definitely wonderful! A keeper for sure. Could listen to this again and again. Wasn’t that sun great yesterday?! Short lived though … NH is back in the chilly rain/grey cycle again today. But I can listen to this to warm my spirit!
Susan: Glad to hear that you like it! I wouldn’t call it “super tranquil,” but it’s certainly nice to listen-to, a dawning pulsating with life and vigor.
It is wonderful! I suspected it would be great, but this is really special, Lang!
I’ve clearly changed. In the past, I might very well have decided not to record at all because of that whoosh. Now I’m appreciating it in a different way, and also noticing that I can hear the gurgle of the water, though it’s not obvious at first. What a beautiful dawning and what a pleasure to share it with a friend who loves nature as I do.
Aw, Lang, it was a joy for me. Thank you so much for having me along. Looking forward to another outing sometime soon.
oh, man, I miss Shindagin Hollow! and Wilseyville Swamp. How’s migration going?
Kathi: Birds arriving right and left, above and below, in front and behind. I heard my first Yellow Warbler today. Magnolia Warbler and Common Yellowthroat yesterday. I fully expect a Scarlet Tanager later today or tomorrow. The Orioles are just back. Shindagin Hollow is absolutely chockfull of Wood Thrushes … I’ve never heard so many. Hermit Thrushes singing too. What an explosion of activity in the bird world!
Lang, I saw my very first Scarlet Tanager at my feeder today here in Georgia, about 20 minutes north of Atlanta. I’ve never seen one in person before, only in books, so I was thrilled! He wasn’t actually eating from the feeder, just perched on the hanger that holds it to the pergola on the deck. He was beautiful but unfortunately he didn’t stay very long. So, maybe you’ll see them your way very soon. Thanks so much for this beautiful recording, so enjoying it!
I expect to hear one any moment ..