One more way to visit the hinterlands of Australia – listening.
Here is audio goodness from ABC Radio National. Presenting Nature Track – abc.net.au/radionational/programs/nature-track – a series of delightfully slow soundscapes available on YouTube. This series is recorded by Ann Jones, host of ABC nature podcast Off Track, and YouTube animal series How Deadly. Each episode includes helpful timestamps identifying the sounds. Highly recommended. Hashtag: #NatureTrack
Kudos @jones_ann @ABCscience @RadioNational
Spectacular morning birdsong, forest sounds
Calm creek sounds, dawn birdsong in Australia
This is a recording I made while traveling through Whadjuk Nyoongar land, WA. The birds differ between east and west Australia. That huge swathe of arid country in between has meant that birds have evolved into different sub-species, species and variants. Sometimes I can pick them but other times, I don’t know who is calling, just that I love listening to them. What animals can you hear? 00:00:00 Normally I would cut out my footsteps walking away from the microphone, but this audio is too beautiful. You can hear carolling magpies, as well as black cockatoos. These are either Baudin’s or Carnaby’s or both. They sometimes do hang out together. Both are endangered species. 00:04:05 An Australian ringneck parrot. This is about the size of a rosella and with a wonderful green body, a black head and a yellow neck around the nape of its head. 00:04:20 A pee-wee or mudlark calling here. They vary slightly across the continent. 00:14:50 Ringnecks are sometimes called twenty-eights in WA because that is sort of what their call sounds like – ‘twenty-eight’. 00:21:44 Here there is a very, very high-pitched tinkling of a grey fantail, along with a magpie, an Australian raven and (we think) a grey shrike-thrush. Thanks to Tegan Douglas form Birdlife Australia who helped me with these sounds! 00:24:40 If you’ve got a particularly good sound system, you might be able to pick up the rhythmic moan of the bronzewing pigeon. 00:26:39 The Australian raven is calling in the background here. It’s a big black bird with a funny beard that pops out, making its neck look really chunky. 00:28:20 Here comes a grey currawong with its chiming call echoing through the bushland. These are handsome, large birds. Maybe something that looks halfway between a magpie and a raven. Grey currawongs are mostly grey in different hues, but with white tips on the wings and tail. They walk and hop on the ground to forage for insects but are strong fliers and happily scale trees, ripping off bark to look for insects and raiding fruit trees. 00:43:00 Western gerygone (pronounced jerr-i-go-nee) is a sweet little hazel eyed greyish bird with an adorable little tail and a sweet little two note, three syllable call. They spend their lives inside bushes and within the branches of trees, frustrating bird watchers. They occasionally flutter out to catch an insect on the wind. They build a nest that hangs off a twig and is wrapped in spiders’ web. 00:44:14 Probably a yellow-plumed honeyeater making those whistling calls with a red wattlebird making ‘chucks’, along with Australian raven moans and common bronzewing droning on in the background. Thanks to Adrian Boyle, Tegan Douglas, Erika Roper and Nigel Jackett for helping ID some of the sounds. I had no hope.
Hey, it’s Ann Jones from Nature Track and How Deadly, and this is a recording I took on the first hot day of spring on Wadawurrung Country, west of Melbourne. Out of bed before the sun, I walked through the bush listening to the last of the nocturnal sounds and found a place on a ridgeline overlooking a creek. There are so many species in this recording – too many to list entirely! But here are a couple and drop me a comment about what YOU hear? 00:00:16 The boobook calls. Listen for a second boobook, who calls at 00:00:48, with a slightly different pitch. In the middle of the night, you can hear the boobooks call right along the creek. 00:01:00 Raucous and loud – a family of kookaburras laughs in chorus. They’re communicating with each other and their neighbouring rivals that they’re awake, and fit, and ready to defend their territory today. 00:07:50 Hear a kangaroo stomping and rustling in the grass and sticks probably heading down the hill to find a cosy spot in the lomandra to sleep for the day. 00:10:20 It’s as if they all knew it was going to be a clear, warm day. Everyone is singing and calling this morning. What a cacophony! 00:21:40 Sulphur-crested cockatoos rarely go anywhere without announcing themselves. 00:23:48 The penetrating, rapid fire pipe of the white throated tree creeper repeats itself. These birds possess special feet that enable them to spend their life bouncing up tree trunks searching for insects, rather than grasping onto horizontal branches. 00:26:50 The sound of several pardalotes can be heard throughout the recording with their repetitive stutter note. Dik-dik… dik-dik. There are both striated and spotted pardalotes in this recording and there are several nests in the area in tiny little hollows in the trees as well as miniscule little burrows dug into the sides of the track and creek. 00:37:30 Ravens. It’s notoriously difficult to tell the difference between raven species’ calls, and I’ve seen both Australasian ravens and little ravens at this spot. But I do think these are little ravens because there are so so so many of them. They’re all up and down the creek line communicating with each other with varying intensity and little ravens have a tendency to gather like this.
Hey, it’s Ann Jones from How Deadly here. Wiluna is a town on the Traditional lands of the Martu people in Western Australia. It’s on gorgeous arid country, about 960km east of Perth. After days of dry heat in excess of 40, it was late afternoon when a huge storm rolled in. Nowhere has storms like the desert, where the hot air rises off the ground to meet the clouds with huge rumbles and rolls that expand across the whole horizon. The rain continued on and off all night and into the next day when I got up in the morning to smell the wet sands and concrete of the town. Each burst of rain was greeted by bird song throughout the sunrise, and as the human occupants of the town slowly woke up.
4:28 Here comes the rain on the tin roof. The galahs scatter, calling. 5:10 A bonded pair of mudlarks, sometimes called peewees or magpie larks. sing a duet together. 10:50 The pied butcherbirds sing through the rainfall — a repetitive, slightly melancholy melody, and occasionally their diagnostic cackling call that almost sounds like yelling “missing you!” at the end of a quick phone call. 14:30 This repetitive chirping call is a honeyeater, but which sort? Perhaps a yellow-throated miner? 16:24 White-plumed honeyeater calls sound a little bit like a slide whistle.
Hey, it’s Ann Jones from How Deadly, and this is a recording I took at Kunanyi/Mt Wellington in Tasmania. The mountain is swirled with mist, and the city of Hobart looks like a miniature village below. I start recording as the light starts lifting for the day. We’re halfway up the mountain here, at the Hobart Waterworks Reserve where two huge reservoirs store water for use by the populace below. The deep valley where the reservoirs are situated means there is an echo-y, dream-like quality to all the sound. You can see the River Derwent in the distance, and hear a unique mix of forest and water birds at this place every single morning. There were tawny frogmouths coming as I trudged up the hill, and as I was sitting listening to the day unfold a scarlet robin danced on the edge of the bush — feeding, patrolling and, just maybe, calling for the microphone.
6:06 A fan-tailed cuckoo calls, making a trilling, descending whistle, quavering slightly as it goes. This cuckoo is a parasitic breeder, sneakily laying its eggs into another bird’s nest. The fan-tailed cuckoo in particular targets tiny birds, like scrubwrens, to bring up its offspring. 7:10 Kookaburras are not native to Tasmania, but were introduced in the early 20th century and are established. 12:51 The ploinking call is probably part of the call repertoire of the grey shrikethrush. 13:38 A single call of a green rosella. This bird is only found in Tasmania and is Australia’s largest rosella. 14:10 The repetitive notes of the striated pardalote, calling in almost perfectly timed beats. 19:52 The deep oooom of a bronzewing pigeon calling from the bushland. Often heard, rarely seen!
Hey, it’s Ann Jones from How Deadly. Near Canberra, where the gum trees grow small and with twisting white trunks, there is a patch of bush. I creep out from under the covers to set up the microphones in the twilight of the morning, right next to a dam. This is on the land of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and not far away there are paddocks, livestock, a road and a farmhouse. But right here all there is, is nature waking up for the day. Listen for the drops of dew falling from the gumtrees and onto the leaf-litter below.
2:34, 4:50 and all through the recording, you can hear rosellas softly chattering to each other, their wing beats as they fly between trees, and the tiny clicks of them cracking open gumnuts to eat the softer seeds inside. They are probably crimson rosellas. 6:17 Australian magpies are the only birds in the world that carol like this. 8:15 Hear those wing beats? It’s literally the sound of the air flowing over the feathers of bird wings. There are also black cockies calling in the distance just after this bird flies past. 15:26 This is the wing beat of a tiny bird, such as a thornbill or spinebill. It sounds like fluttering — “pfffffrt pfffffrt” — because they flap so fast each wing beat blurs into one shaky sound.
Relaxing birdsong by the ocean
Hey, it’s Ann Jones from How Deadly here. Roebuck Bay, on the traditional lands of the Yawuru people, is one of the most magical places in Australia. It’s a 34,119-hectare mudflat, washed every day by a tide that reaches kilometres from the shoreline, back and forth. It’s a wetland of international significance, used every year by at least 300,000 shorebirds as a launching pad for their migration to the northern hemisphere. I was on the edge of the bay right near the Broome Bird Observatory, waiting for small birds to start their migration to Siberia, and I was struck by the incredible soundscape around me. Thousands of mud skippers flipped and flopped. Crab holes filled and emptied with tidal surges, making ploinking glugs. Land birds made themselves heard – babblers, rainbow bee eaters, and a mournful butcherbird, and waves of cicadas roared in the distance as the humidity hugged every part of me in an unbearable, sticky grasp. This is a much quieter soundscape, but no less beautiful or restful. For those who enjoy white noise, this is close to the white noise of nature. 00:05 Straight away you can hear the immense space that this is — behind is the scrubby bush of the foreshore and in front is an immense mudflat. The tide is so far out that it just looks like a mirage on the horizon. Cicadas or other insects are buzzing, and a rainbow bee-eater is calling in the distance. 00:12 These are the red soldier crabs, mudskippers and armies of creatures which call the intertidal zone their home. 01:00 We are incredibly lucky to be joined, throughout this recording, by a pied butcherbird. They are one of the best songsters in the land. In fact, it’s at least two butcherbirds, often singing in response to each other, so listen closely to how far away or which direction the call comes from to try and hear the different individuals. 16:20 This piercing call is the grey shrikethrush! Thanks to Nigel Jackett who helped me with the identification. The GST sounds different everywhere in Australia so it can be a bit trick-sy!
Calm creek flowing, frogs and birds
Hi, it’s Ann Jones from How Deadly. Imagine a still, cold night, with moonlight flooding the landscape. Big, old candlebarks are standing still and silent, and a creek winds through a shallow valley. This creek is near where I grew up in country Victoria, and in this recording it was running from rains a couple of days prior. Despite the lovely sound of flowing water, the frogs didn’t appear to be in the water, but rather, a lot of the sound was coming from the vegetation, pools and puddles around the creek’s edges. It’s hard to hear many of the other sounds above the water flowing and the frogs, they manage to really cover your ears, but there are actually many creatures in this recording if you’ve got very good ears and time to listen hard. 1:50 Common eastern froglet with a “creaky-creaky-creaky” call. Don’t let the name fool you — these are tiny frogs, with a maximum size of 3cm. The best way to see them is to wait until night and use a torch to try and see tiny little eyes on the edge of the water. They will appear in almost any habitat really, they’re not too picky and will probably breed at any time of year also. They’re hardy – and that’s why they’re still common. Only the male frogs call in this way to advertise. What you’re hearing is only a maximum of 50 percent of the frogs present. But more than that, there will be other species who prefer different temperatures, and this might be too warm or too cold for them. This is a way of, sort of, divvying up the habitat between all the frogs that live there. There could be all sorts of things lurking there quietly.
Official spin: “Nature Track is your window to the amazing sounds of Australia!”