Advanced wildlife sound recording course
27 May 2012
Last weekend I was taking sound recordings of wildlife at Whitwell Common and Foxley Wood in Norfolk. This was all part of the Advanced wildlife sound recording course organised by Wildeye.
The group of sound artists, gamers, composers, musicians and recordists set off into Foxley Wood at 2.30am on Sunday, with the aim to capture the sounds of the dawn chorus. We walked quickly together in the dark guided by a few head torches, splitting off into narrow corridors of trees to find our own spot to set up our equipment. I used a parabolic dish with NT55 Rode condenser microphone, using a Marantz PMD660.
Later on that day I captured the intimate and hidden sounds of Whitwell garden using a contact microphone (to pick up vibrations rather than air pressure) and a nearby lake, using a pair of hydrophones (under water microphones) to record the sounds of the under water creatures and plants. I did a few experiments with the contact microphones- wrapped them around a wire fence, let bugs walk across them, hung paper over the wire and let it flutter in the wind causing vibrations, but haven’t included the recordings as the results were too quiet.
The course was led by Chris Watson, one of the world’s leading wildlife sound recordists, known for working with the BBC. He has also released four solo award-winning albums of field recordings. Jez Riley French uses experimental field recording techniques, builds his own contact microphones, hydrophones and creates ‘intuitive compositions’ based around the notion of audible silence and stillness for soundscapes, music and performances.
Below are some sound recordings from the course, they are all raw tracks with no effects. Please excuse the odd creek and gurgle; I was holding the parabolic dish in all of the recordings (apart from those that where recorded using a hydrophone)- next time I shall use a tripod, and my stomach was gurgling in the dawn chorus tracks as we were up super early and I was hungry!
Dawn chorus with Roe Deer, 3.27 mins: A recording taken at Foxley Wood at approx 4.30am. I used a parabolic dish and aimed it at the edge of the wood, so that I could pick up a selection of birdsong and the sound of a male roe deer, rather than the overall ambience of the wood.
Dawn chorus with blue tit, 4.56 mins: This recording was taken shortly after the one above and features a particularly loud blue tit singing his heart out!
Wood pigeons in Whitwell Hall gardens, 6.56 mins: I’m really pleased with this recording as I had tried to record the sound of feral and wood pigeons in Leicester by the canal and had never really got a decent recording as it was so noisy and based near to the city centre. This was recorded in the car park at Whitwell Hall using a parabolic dish, NT55 microphone and the Marantz.
Hydrophone Norfolk lake, 5.42 mins: This was the last recording taken during the weekend, I hadn’t been able to hear any under water life and had almost given up, when I found a nice spot at the end of the trail (I’m guessing for fishing?) I cant identify what I heard but I have been told that the buzzing sound will be underwater insects and the bubbles will be plants giving off oxygen.