Various nature recordings by Bernhard Kroeger
One advantage of recording at night is that there is much less anthrophony, a term coined by Dr. Bernie Krause to describe sounds caused by human activity, or noise. During the day there is air and regular traffic, logging, improperly muffled Harleys, as most of them are, can be heard for miles, and it is difficult to get a recording without this background noise; so one remedy is to go out when most people are asleep and try to find and record owls.
Most owls are capable of producing a great variety of sounds, anything from a wail, toot, hoot, bark, chitter, slide whistle, to bill snapping, just to name a few.
The western foothills of the Sierra Nevada is home to many saw-whet owls. Here are some of their vocalizations:
Wail to territorial toot:
this was recorded along Chalk Bluff Road on November 26, 2007. I don’t know what prompts saw-whet owls to wail, but I suspect it is a sign of agitation. I am open to explanations. Territorial toots can go on for hours.
This recording of a saw-whet owl wail was made above the town of Washington in Nevada County on December 1, 2007.
This recording of a saw-whet owl territorial hoot was recorded further up the road from the above location and is a territorial toot.
Note that while doing the territorial toot the volume and timing varies greatly.
Recorded a little after 0700 on Sept. 24, 2008 at Loon Lake in the Sierra Nevada. The sun had just touched the tops of the pines and flocks of 10-15 red crossbills were very active flying back and forth high in the treetops. On this recording the call of the crossbills is the strong “cheep cheep” one hears at the beginning. Towards the end the wind comes up and can be heard in the tree tops.
Cast of characters:
red crossbills, mountain chickadees, Stellar’s jay, pine siskins, red-breasted nuthatches and mallards on the lake
Equipment: Sound Devices 722 with Telinga dish and twin science microphone
This file is from the same location, a little bit later, and has more of a “songlike” quality.
The plaintive call of a red-shouldered hawk was recorded early in the morning along Perimeter Road in Nevada County in May of 2008.
Equipment: Telinga dish with Telinga twin science microphone and Sound Devices 722 digital recorder.
Bruce Webb, was kind enough to show me the owling spots along Mosquito Ridge Road in Placer County, in May of 2007, not too long after I got my first recording equipment.
This was recorded on the night of May 28-29, 2007. I was lucky, beginner’s luck, to be able to get clear double hoots at the beginning of the recording. Excessive hiss was removed. Some handling noise is present.
Equipment: Telinga dish with twin science microphone and Marantz PMD671 digital recorder.
This is a recording with the same equipment of a different owl in the same general area. Again excessive hiss was removed.
This one provided me with my first lesson regarding the night woods. I had cruised the road and stopped every 100 feet or so and listened for flammulated owls calling to get an idea of how many there were and could hear one in the woods. There was no place to pull out, and it being late at night, I pulled over as far as I could and left the running lights on in case there was traffic, and entered the woods over a berm to my right. The owl was calling faintly ahead, and as I tried to get closer the bird retreated further into the woods, and of course, I followe blindly, excited about maybe getting a good recording. The moon provided some light, and the woods were somewhat open with cedars, douglas firs, and black oaks. I followed the owl along a circuitous path further into the woods and when it quit calling and I wanted to go back to the car I realized I had no clue where the road was. I am one of those people who stood in the wrong line when a sense of direction was handed out as part of our bag of tricks. My small flashlight was of no help, and concentrating now on trying to figure out where the road might be, and not on listening through the earphones, I started hearing all kinds of subtle and mysterious noises around me. I instantly got spooked, wondering what was trying to sneak up and pounce on me. Right now I can feel myself getting weak in the knees. It took me a while to control my rising panic, and I stopped, trying to assess my situation. The main thing is I kept aimlessly wandering trying to recognize anything I’d passed on the way in. I’ve since made it a habit to stop and look behind me to get an impression of how things should look when retracing my steps. The worst thing that could happen I told myself, is that I might freeze my ass off waiting through the night until I heard a passing car or truck to find out in which direction the road was. As I calmed down I realized that the moon had been almost directly ahead of me as I entered the woods and figured if I reversed this I should find my way out. Even though I recognized nothing on the way out, I did eventually find the road about 100 yards from where I had left the car and was mightily relieved. It wouldn’t hurt to slip the GPS into a pocket after setting a waypoint at the car.
The Marienkirche in Neubrandenburg Germany was started in 1248 and is an example of the brick Gothic building style. It was burned out in 1945 with only the outer walls and part of the bell tower minus the spire was left standing. In 1975 the city bought the ruin and started reconstruction, and in June of 2007, five bronze bells were installed to replace their worn out steel predecessors. The church is now a concert hall.
My wife and I rode the bicycle path from Berlin to the Baltic this summer, and Neubrandenburg was on the route. Our Hotel stood directly across from the church and I was able to record the bells at 0800 on the morning of July 29, 2008.
I placed my Olympus LS-10 on the windowsill facing the church, about 150 meters away. Unfortunately there was construction going on in the building next to the hotel so the recording is marred by hammering. The high pitched call of soaring Mauersegler Apus apus (common swift) can also be heard.
I loved the sound of these bells, they made the air hum with their resonance and overtones.
This was recorded at 0400 on March 30, 2008 on Perimeter Road in Nevada County. My friend Rudy Darling and I had discovered this bird while owling early in the morning a few days before. We were thrilled to have discovered it. I went out alone this morning with my Telinga dish with the twin science microphone and this recording was a response to taping, i.e. playing back a long-eared owl call with an iPod and speaker. This practice is controversial.
There is significant handling noise in this recording as I was cold and shivering. The hooting may sound boring and repetitive to you. To me it was exciting as hell.
A front moved through starting during the night with the wind whistling high through the pines in the campground. I got up early and placed the Olympus LS-10 on a mini tripod about 5 inches off the ground and placed it in a blueberry thicket about 8 feet from the shore. I was hoping that the placement would cut down on the rumble that results from high wind even with a fake fur cover for the microphones. One can hear the wavelets lapping against the rocky shore and the wind gusts roaring high in the pines. At lake level gusts measured up to 15 mph with a Kestrel 3500 and I imagine the winds were stronger higher up.
Some rumble was unavoidable and I did not edit it out. The rustling is from the blueberry bushes immediately surrouding the recorder. At 06:17 one can hear a branch snap.
Olympus LS-10 on mini tripod about 10 feet from the shore early in the morning on Sept. 20, 2008 at Goose Lake in the Sierra. A front had moved through the day before and it was cold, with mist on the lake and the Sierra Buttes bathed in a pink glow just before the sun rose. The goose calls echo off the forest to the left before and after they took off and fade away.
Telinga dish with twin science microphone. Trill of a dark-eyed junco in the spring. Recorded on Banner Mountain near Nevada City, California.
Telinga dish with twin science microphone. Calls and song of house finch on Banner Mountain near Nevada City, California.