Dawn chorus with two Wood Thrushes countersinging. 27 April 1995, Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky. © Lang Elliott. Please play at a low volume to simulate a natural listening experience.
Here is a lovely 6.5 minute soundscape that I just uncovered … two Wood Thrushes singing back-and-forth at dawn, recorded in hardwood forest at Land Between the Lakes Kentucky way back in 1995, about the time I began gathering binaural soundscapes. I rather like it and think it’s a powerful reminder of things to come (yep, SPRING is just around the corner, believe me!).
It’s a busy dawn chorus for sure, but if played at a medium to low sound level, it’s fairly gentle on the ears. The recording also features the incessant singing of distant Whip-poor-wills, Barred Owls hooting, Mourning Doves cooing, a woodpecker drumming (probably a Hairy Woodpecker), and plenty more species for the discerning ear.
While it’s easy to capture dawn choruses in late spring and early summer, many end up being way too dense to be enjoyable beyond a minute or two of listening, Perhaps this one is an exception?
Let me know what you think! Where does this fit on the meditative versus engaging continuum?
On a sidenote, one of my readers (Jane Laberee) e-mailed me and asked if I’ve noticed declines in Wood Thrush numbers. I explained that I haven’t (at least in my favorite spots to record them), but admitted that my impression is not at all quantitative, not at all based on actual scientific data. The fact of the matter is that scientists have evidence that Wood Thrush populations have declined by more than 50% over the last fifty years, according to breeding bird survey data … probably due to loss of habitat on both their breeding and wintering grounds. Here are two relevant sources:
ABC Birds Article
Smithsonian Institution Article
Not at all good news, is it?
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Wood thrushes – enchanted music to my ears. Thank you! A story — one spring when I was listening to a wood thrush, a love of her song rose up in me and an overwhelming longing to see the creature who made this otherworldly melody that I loved. Not too long after, the song was right in my ear, and, turning my head, there was a little bird perched on a log not 5 feet behind me. It was beyond a thrill; it was a profound moment of revelation and communion.
a favorite-with all of the best choir members
I love this and your beautiful Robin recording you just posted also!Puts me in places and memories of experiences I have had with the sensual beauty (sight, sound, smell, etc.) of Nature. And lifts my spirits. Do you have these two available for download? Thank you!!
This is wonderful! The liquid notes of the wood thrushes against the background sounds of the owl, the woodpecker, and all the others brought me right into the beauty of the forest. Thank you so much!
You’re welcome all! This has proved to be quite a popular recording … obviously rating high in the “uplifting” category of soundscapes.
wonderful! Thank you
A gorgeous symphony!!
Spring in my ears , winter in my eyes.
It won’t be long before spring is flooding all your senses! I so look forward to that time of year.
I like the fullness of this, Lang. In mid-winter it puts me smack in the midst of a western NY forest dawn, where I stop and listen to the chorus, turning in place as I pick out all the different species by ear.
Thrushes are my very favorite, and I’ve sat and even laid down right in place many mornings and evenings while walking in the woods, just to close my eyes and listen to counter-singing thrushes.
Those are profoundly happy moments, and this is such a welcome soundscape EScape in a bitterly cold northeastern January.
Michelle: Your comments leave me with a big smile on my face! I am so grateful this recording brings back such fond memories.
Lang, this is a very engaging recording and I’m so glad I saw your post before going to bed tonight. I’ll have all these birds in my ears when I head upstairs. I don’t think this is too dense at all. It’s a recording I found myself immersed in – not in a medtitative way, but really paying attention. I really like the Barred Owl followed by the Mourning Dove. I find that people mix up these two bird calls/songs because they are both in very similar ranges and both sound like an “oo” vowel. I found it fascinating to… Read more »
Lisa: I think that being attentive is a form of meditation. Mindfulness is actually all about attentiveness, usually directed inward but why not also outward?
The two Wood Thrushes certainly hold center stage, but they sure have wonderful and melodic back up singers. This nature chorus was a great way to wind down before bed and to be reminded of what awaits us in just a few months. Thanks for sharing this gem Lang.
Yes, I rather like the balance between the main singers and all the backup musicians. In some of my recordings, I use editing software to push-back certain loud singers that are too dominant (this works okay some of the time). Didn’t have to do that here.
Thanks for this one Lang, I remember walking the VIC after the sun went down during dusk. It was such a joy to be in their world, listening to them do their calls before complete dark.
All the thrushes perform at dusk, such a magical time of the day. My favorite expression of this is Hermit Thrushes singing and giving their nasal waay calls as peepers and gray tree frogs pipe and trill in the background … in the north country of course!
Dear Lang, I was just enjoying the gorgeous wood thrush counter-singing and began to wonder if you have noticed a decline in species and if you find it as easy to record these soundscapes in recent years as in the past. Then I noticed that the thrush recording is about twenty-three years old. Uh-oh, Warm regards, Jane Laberee
Jane: I’ve posted a response in the main body of the blog post, at the bottom. Please check it out. Although I haven’t noticed decreases in my favorite wild areas, the data show a 50% or greater decline over the last fifty years. Yikes … that not good news at all.
This recording is for me pure joy. An open door… the threshold between night and morning. I will return to it. Thank you.
I absolutely love your description: “pure joy … an open door …the threshold between night and morning.”
Yes. That is beautifully put.
Thank you, Michelle 🙂
Thank you kindly for saying so.
It really is a wonderful background piece if played at low sound level for meditation. So very relaxing and takes me right out into the woods! Thanks so much for posting it and am so glad you uncovered it. It’s amazing the wonderful things we’ve all tucked away!
Bev: Sound level is all important. Play the recording loudly and it will come across as cacophonous. Play it softly and the dawn chorus becomes, as Thoreau so nicely put it: “A thousand birds … gently ushering in the light”.
wood thrushes and owls…2 of my favorites!! love it!! thanks… ohhh, i hear a cardinal in there too. I love the spring chorus, can’t wait to hear it again from my window when i wake up.
Yep … there’s a cardinal in there for sure!
Oh, Lang, this is so glorious. Just what I needed tonight!
And I sent it to my mother, who introduced me to the wood thrush and loves that song more than anything.
Leigh: Let me know what your mom thinks of the recording.
Brilliantly joyful, givers of such gladness … alas, no, I could not meditate to this but I do appreciate the wide grin of heartfelt happiness that softens my face for the duration of this song. I love it! What a great way to start any day or take refreshment therein.
Sharon: What is meditation? If you listen for the duration with a “wide grin of heartfelt happiness”, then what should we call that activity? Engaged appreciation? But not a form or variety of meditation? Is nature meditation always about relaxation? Or might it also indicate deep absorption or immersion in nature’s melodies? It’s all very confusing to me as there are many definitions of meditation.
A wonderful thing I have learned about meditation is that one size does not fit all. I could easily meditate to this, and often enjoy going out in spring to just sit to watch, listen, smell, feel the breeze and sun on my skin. Few bird songs as sweet as a thrush. Alas, no wood thrushes near me. After the cold of the last few days, it’s nice to have a reminder that Spring, and birdsong, will return.
Thanks for your comment Terry. I too can meditate to this dawn chorus, at least in the sense of becoming absorbed in its beauty and it’s positive effect on my psyche.
I like to think that if it invites or draws you into the place and time–in your mind’s eye, or ear, and causes you to recall or imagine the fuller setting–it’s meditative. Any active thought that comes from this, any memories carried from The experience, and any anticipation caused by it, is only an appropriate mindful response to the emotional impact.
That can do an awful lot of good for the soul AND mind!
Amen to that, Michelle!
I think the ‘exception’ for me, in my experience of this aural tapestry, may be that I am unable NOT to focus on the birds’ communication, to be neutral rather than actively aware and participatory in my listening. Yes, I too sense that there may be distinctions in semantics, as I am not trained in the meanings of the relevant terminology. Perhaps the vividness that holds my focus would soften after repeat hearings so my grasp on the music would soften and release …
Sharon: It strikes me that you hear and feel the “music” just fine. I can tell by the way you write, your choice of words.