Why did I take up wildlife sound recording?


Why did I take up wildlife sound recording?

In my case the over ruling incentive was the hunt. The thrill of tracking down the species and “capturing” its sounds without disturbing the animal. Once the sounds had been “captured” leaving the scene without disturbance. The secondary motive was to learn the sounds the animal makes and why the animal is making them.  Thirdly I could get involved with obtaining the different bits of kit needed and updating them as and when some new format or superior item became available and I could afford it. My materialistic nature came to the fore.

The thing is I have been doing it for over 40 years and although the thrill of the hunt is still there, it is a much weaker force now. As I have increase my knowledge of the sounds animals make the secondary object has weakened as well. I am no “Golden Eared” person, my retention of sound knowledge is a great deal poorer than many of my sound recording friends, but I have a reasonably wide knowledge, it's a pity my hearing has deteriorated though!!

Thirdly I have more kit collected over the years than you can “shake a stick at”, so I do not need any more.

So what is left? Well as I have just written I still need to learn more of the sounds I have recorded. Unfortunately at my “mature” age, even with the most sophisticated hearing aids, I cannot hear all the sounds I was able to hear 30 years ago, so I have a limitation as to what sounds I can keep on learning. I see sounds on my computer screen but hearing them is a no no.

For nearly 40 years I lived in a place where the most aggravating sounds that would spoil my recordings, apart from planes that is, was the sound of the sheep braying when the farmer walked out to see them. Latterly that developed into the quad bike but still usually liveable with when you know your own patch. Now having done the “old farts” move to be nearer grandchildren the M6 is too near and the holiday traffic on our rural roads is just awful.

The impetus to go out recording therefore is not as high as it used to be, but nevertheless one gives it a go, even though the call of snuggling under my silk duvet gets louder and louder. Once out though the thrill of being in great countryside is always there and the hunt gets going, but what to hunt

So I decided to make a lists of things that I sensibly could work towards capturing.  I see my recording activities split into three sections:-

1. Individual species and their vocabulary.

2. Biophonies, soundscapes, habitat recordings whatever you like to call them.


3. Those “sound artisty” types of recordings that most wildlife -sound recordists find either loathsome, rubbish or at best simply not understandable.

So let me share them with you:-

Section 1


        Rails of all kinds but not Corncrake( I have hours of that beast), 

        Bittern flight call, from as many locations as I can get to,

        Storm Petrel, Chough flocking calls and Hippopotamus, definitely a must.

Section 2

       The “smack” of a big wave against a cliff.

       The near silent sound of leaves falling to the ground on a frosty wind free day.


       The cracking of ice on the village pond on a sunny day when the air temperature is below freezing.

Section 3

        The sound of a north easterly wind through the scaffold walkway at Arisaig pier.

        The way the wind sounds through the ventilation shafts at the nuclear reprocessing plant where I worked. 

        The popping and hissing of the steam heating pipeline at the same plant accompanied by house crickets that lived there.

        The sounds of different cattle grids when my Land Rover goes over them.

        My squeaky wheelbarrow variations that I started in Madagascar that needs finishing.

All these I can hear.  I have created a goodly list of sounds to aim for before I “drop off the edge”. I might even consider doing some of the recordings using my favourite Nagra reel to reel because it is more fun to use, and I like watching the time go by, round and round for 24 minutes at a time, (Using 71/2 ips of course)'

Have a lovely time




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