Sounds of June

A change of tone …… Slurry!

Intrigued by the sounds coming from the local farm, I spent time this month recording various audio clips that I have used to create an edited piece called “Slurry“. It not only features sounds from nature, but also includes some more unusual “noises” from mechanical devices on the farm. All part of the soundscape at Girrick in June.

Slurry

My fascination with the quality of the various sounds was perhaps matched by an equal measure of curiosity from those working on the farm; puzzled by the bizarre sight of me (with my recording equipment) – standing by the roadside as cattle were herded along the lane, following tractors into yards and keeping a very safe distance whilst slurry was being transferred.

The mechanical sounds of both slurry mixer and vaccum pump on the tanker were ideally suited to creating a more “abstract” sound piece in post-production. If you can, listen on headphones – a definite change of tone!

Slurry Abstraction

Thanks to all those at Girrick farm for allowing me to capture an aspect of their busy schedule in June.

You can listen to the audio clips for the months to date of 2021 in:

Sound Calendar

A range of slow listening audio clips from nature

Sounds of May

Birdsong at dawn – choral gladness

For a few weeks in early May, drifting in and out of sleep during the wee small hours, I had been listening to the sound of birdsong in the comfort of my warm bed. I decided (a little reluctantly) to rise very early and record the dawn chorus in all its full magnitude. Setting my alarm for 3.30am I emerged sleepily from my bed……but was disappointed to find that the showers of April were downpours in May:

May downpour

A second try a few days later was thwarted by the wind:

A very windy dawn

On my third early morning I was in luck. The weather was perfectly still and dry.

I recorded a full 20 minutes with only the occassional interuptions by distant cars or a plane flying overhead. I have condensed this into a 5 minute clip, with minimal editing – just extracting key phases of the chorus and crossfading the clips.

Listen and enjoy without the need to be out of bed at dawn!

Dawn chorus at Girrick

Nest of moss in Birch tree

The daylight hours of May have also seen a lot of bird activity in the garden, including an intriguing little nest high up in the Birch tree. I think it is a Chaffinch, but hard to tell from below.

A Spotted flycatcher has been investigating the birdbox, but doesn’t seem to have taken up residence as yet …….

Spotted Fly catcher bringing moss into bird box

… and various birds have been bathing in the pond or the shallow birdbath on the decking.

Blue tit splashing around in the bird bath – watercolour sketch
Robin bathing in the pond

There were also a few rare moments of dramatic lighting this month.


You can listen to the audio clips for the months to date of 2021 in:

Sound Calendar

A range of slow listening audio clips from nature

Sounds of April

Nature emerges from its winter quietness

April seems to be the month that nature really begins to emerge from the “quietness” of its winter shell. Plant life responds with new life and the budding process abounds. Bees visit early blossoms and birds sing out their varied songs.

Last year in early April, at the start of lockdown, I began the practice of sketching one emerging bud in the garden each day.

Sketches of emerging buds - Pencil with watercolour wash

This year I have been busy listening to the range of sounds that fill the air. Some, that really represent this month, have proved difficult to capture. I didn’t have my recording equipment the day I sat quietly by the fence and heard the sound of cows munching on fresh grass, having returned to the fields with their new calves. Next time I went out with my recorder, the cows were far away in the valley!

I did, however, create a small soundscape, in an attempt to encapsulate some of the other sounds that typify April. Listening on headphones will give you the full effect, hopefully immersing you in the sense of Spring.

Soundscape of Spring
Apple Tree buds opening – pencil with watercolour wash

See also Photogallery: Buds in Spring

You can hear the audio clips for the months to date of 2021 in:

Sound Calendar

A range of slow listening audio clips from nature

Sounds of March

Croaking chorus

A regular occurence in March – a gang of frogs appear from nowhere and, for a few weeks, “occupy” the pond in front of Studio Hundy. Their characteristic “croaking” can be heard from afar, as you walk down the garden approaching the pond. As they pick up your presence, this transforms into a multitude of “plopping” sounds as all the frogs dive below the surface. For a few minutes, until they gradually emerge again, the only visual evidence of their presence is the large clumps of spawn laying on, or just below the surface.

I managed to capture the croaking chorus by placing my field recorder on the edge of the pond, hiding in the studio, and using a remote extension. It also captures other characteristic Sounds of March in the background!

Croaking away
The surface tension with the spawn reminds me of mercury

Sounds of February

Icicles on Eden

As the snow and freezing temperatures from the East gradually subided, melt water filled the local brook – the Eden water – bringing some beautiful sights and sounds. A short composite of two field recordings captures the richness of those sounds:

Melt water on Eden

Icicles formed on Alder, growing in abundance on the banks, dipping their branches into the undulating currents of the now fast flowing stream.

Icicles on Eden – Charcoal 2021

Frozen pools on the valley floor created the unique patterns that only nature can offer.

The sound and movement of the water, in the quietness of a cold February day, inspired me to make a short video.

Melt water on Eden

I have experimented here; bringing together the video footage with a multi-layered voice recording and nature sounds. The latter being recorded in situ with my hand-held Zoom H5 audio equipment.

Sounds of January

Cruching across icy fields

A couple of short stereo field recordings giving the “texture” of January. Listen on headphones to experience the sounds!

Snow crunch


Ice crunch

Walking in the snow and crunching across the icy fields.

Midwinter’s nigh

Slumbering earth

Moon rising

We are very close to the midwinter solstice and the shortest day.  Physical darkness predominates at this time of year – often during the daylight hours as well.  We frequently encounter  grey, overcast skies.  What a delight it is when we see the winter sun, or perhaps an occasional rainbow.

RAINBOW LIGHT

Even the sight of the full moon’s brightness brings joy.

MOON LIGHT

GLOWING FIREWe yearn for the light in winter and as advent advances, I find myself more and more enjoying not only the warmth of the fire, but also the heart-warming orange glow of the embers.

Irrespective of our religious beliefs, this time of year is very often a time of preparation, and perhaps also reflection.  For me, certain activities enhance the sense of anticipation – the printing of a Christmas card in Studio Hundy or cutting greenery from the garden for a garland or door wreath; these are all part of what makes the lead up to Christmas special.

The earth feels as if it is somehow  “slumbering” now, but there is still a lot of activity in nature, particularly amongst the many birds that visit our garden.

What a fantastic treat I had earlier in the week when I was refilling the feeder on the tall birch tree.  Just before I came down from the ladder, a Long-tailed-tit perched itself on a branch just inches away.  A few minutes later a “flock” of 8 to 10 of these beautiful birds arrived.  The message was out!

Such synchronicity, given the lino-cut print I had prepared earlier in the month as my Christmas card!

Christmas card 2019
Lino cut with aqua tint

Mists & mellow fruitfulness

Days grow short now

September is well underway.  Harvested golden fields shine out across the landscape.  Early morning mists and dew fall on cobwebs like glistening jewels.

Bird song has changed – the robin and the blue-tit seem to sing a different tone; or perhaps I’m just noticing them more?  An occasional skein of geese fly over our house, with their evocative calls, echoing in the still cool air.   And the fruiting process in our garden abounds.

The abundance of summer is gradually drawing to a close – so wonderfully depicted in Keats’ poem:

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage trees,
  And fill all fruits with ripeness to the core;
   To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
  With sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
  Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells.

Verse 1 of 3
John Keats 1819

Rowan - giving in bounteous plenty Oil-on-paper
Rowan in autumn  – Bounteous plenty        Oil-on-paper

Rowans are often stripped of their berries by this time of year, but those that remain “glow” against the gradually turning foliage.

337

And the late flowering Rudbekia shines out in the darkening evening light.

For me autumn flowers bring a sense of hope and promise of the Spring to come, as the days grow short and the earth prepares to “close down” inwardly for winter.

Welcome arrivals

Flight is our life

The new beginnings associated with Easter are always accompanied in April/May by a sense of anticipation in nature; awaiting the sighting of the first House Martins or Swallows.   I say sighting, but sometimes it is the awareness of their excitable “chatter”.   It never fails to bring a feeling of jubilance, in the knowledge that these migrants have returned to build or re-build their homes for the summer. 

It is a profound feeling that resonates deeply.  This year it was on Good Friday that I was aware the blue sky had received those welcome dark shadows, flying rapidly in apparent purposeful endeavour.   The depth of this event is, for me, beautifully encapsulated in the poem by Mary Webb published in 1928.

Swallows

The swallows pass in restless companies.
Against the pink-flowered may, one shining breast
Throbs momentary music – then, possessed
With motion, sweeps on some new enterprise.
Unquiet in heart, I hear their eager cries
And see them dart to their nests beneath the eaves;
Within my spirit is a voice that grieves,
Reminding me of empty autumn skies.
Nor can we rest in Nature’s dear delight:
June droops to winter, and the sun droops west.
Flight is our life. We build our crumbling nest
Beneath the dark eaves of the infinite,
We sing our song in beauty’s fading tree,
And flash forth, migrant, into mystery.

by Mary Webb

Reference: Webb, M. (1930)  The collected works of Mary Webb.  Poems and The Spring of Joy. London:  Jonathon Cape, 1928.

Veil painting - swallows (2)
Veil painting watercolour 2018

Buds will blow

Joy of new beginnings

Birdsong in spring

CHESTNUT BLOWN

Three and a half weeks on from the Spring Equinox, the clocks have changed and the light is gradually increasing.  Signs of new life are abundant and buds in all shapes and forms are beginning to “blow”.    An old English word:

blow/bləυ/v. & n. archaic. v.intr. burst into or be in flower. n. blossoming, bloom (in full blow). [OE blõwan f. Gmc]

Whilst not often found today, this word – for me – encapsulates nature at this time of year (Photo-gallery: Buds in Spring).

I came across its use in a song at our regular Thursday a capella singing group:

You have to believe that buds will blow,
Believe in grass in days of snow,
That’s the reason a bird can sing,
On its darkest day it believes in spring
ROWAN UNFURLING 3
ROWAN UNFURLING -charcoal

As spring unfolds and buds burst into bloom, bird song also brings the joy of new beginnings.

A sound recording I made in our local valley in 2017 brings something of that joyous spring calling to life.

With the gentle sound of the Eden water flowing in the background, the light was slowly fading and the various songs being sung resonated, as if in preparation for another new day.