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The fun of recording nature sounds (and not filming it!)

Do you know what the sound of a fox calling sounds like? I didn’t (either) until I played an audio recording I made somewhere in the south of the Netherlands in a forest. But first, when playing the raw file back through my headphones, for a moment I got the shivers as I clearly heard a scream and thought I captured some sort of nocturnal slaughter, like a girl was screaming for her life.

A friend could later on tell me it was the typical alarm bark of a fox, who warns its cubs or other adult foxes of danger. And that’s why recording nature sounds is so much fun. Listen to it yourself here:

Some time later you hear it approaching the recording site, probably alarmed by a dog. First you here the barking of the dog, about 20 seconds later the footsteps are fading in (don’t be shocked by the sudden sound of the fox): I think it’s worthwhile listen to this track for a couple of minutes.

Explaining some sounds

Let me explain the scene first. I put the sound recorder behind some bushes on top of a tree fork, which was already enclosed by chicken wire. The tree was part of a private piece of forest with a small cottage, where I stayed a couple of days with some friends. These couple of acres of land is the at edge of a larger, mixed forest with some fens (small water pools) in it.

This is the spot by sunset.

From outside the forest you hear the town and traffic sounds, inside the forest you hear mainly animals. Above, airplanes, and sometimes migratory geese are heard.

At the time of the recording it was winter. At night the temperature dropped to 7 degrees Celsius below zero (which is about 19 degrees Fahrenheit), so the leaves on the ground were frozen. 
That brings me to the interesting sound of footsteps from animals you sometimes hear. They produce this typical creaking or crispy sound, because of the frozen fragile leaves on the relatively hard ground on which the animals walk. In the next track you hear probably the footsteps of a deer.

The fox call was one of the gems I discovered when I browsed through the sounds. Another personal discovery when I browsed through the sounds was the chewing mysterious animal. Or actually there were two sorts of chewing animals. At a particular moment an animal approaches (clearly heard by the sound of footsteps) and all of a sudden you hear it chewing, which is a strange sensation. It must‘ve eaten half a meter from the recorder. If you close your eyes and only focus on the sounds you hear through your headphones you can imagine how it must’ve been there.

Concentration exercise or relaxing sensation?

Listening the recording is like a concentration exercise. In order to discover as many (interesting) sounds as possible you need to focus like a beam. Using a proper soundproof headphone and closing your eyes make it as if you’re entering another, unknown world. And as you listen, bit by bit you make that world yours, helped by your imagination. It’s like a journey actually, where you never know what comes next. I didn’t expect the fox and I experienced it as my lucky shot. So, it wasn’t concentration alone, I also felt a relaxing sensation coming over me.

The fun of capturing and listening audio only

Recording audio only, definitely has added value above capturing video. When listening to it is much more relaxing and less compelling. You can close your eyes and focus on the sounds without the feeling you missed something, because sounds from all directions are captured with the recorder as well as by your ears, whereas images are captured with your eyes unidirectional, even when you capture footage with for example a 360 camera.

Well, what I actually want to share with you is that listening to sound only, can be as interesting as watching a scene; it’s a whole different way of experiencing your environment. In today’s society everything has to be fast and efficient; closing your eyes is not a part of it anymore, only for sleeping. However, make some time and close your eyes and listen what’s around you.

For those who have the time of the world I will give you the full recording here:

2 gedachten over “The fun of recording nature sounds (and not filming it!)

  1. I really appreciate your explanations of how you go about making your recordings, and the differences between having simply audio vs audio with video. The fox crying her alarm bark was particularly affecting!

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