The still waters of a small lake in the Adirondack mountains of northeastern United States reflect the first glimmers of the approaching dawn. The treeline and low hills beyond stand out against the paling sky.
Bullfrogs and Peepers have been calling almost continually throughout the night. Now this amphibian chorus subsides as the light grows. As we listen from the lake edge, the air begins to shimmer with the delicate sounds of passerine birdsong. It emanates from nearby forest and drifts across from the far shores - White-throated Sparrows, Warblers, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Wrens. Hermit Thrushes give querulous calls, between bouts of sublime song. A coyote calls distantly, and later deer barks echo across the lake.
On this recording you can hear the scale of the landscape, as frog calls define the lake edge and birdsong echoes from the treeline. This album takes us into a still morning of listening, as sunlight slants through drifts of steam rising from the waters.
"I made this recording in the company of two of my closest colleagues in America; Lang Elliot and Doug Quin. Both are sensitive nature recordists and naturalists, and as each is based in upstate New York, the Adirondacks are their backyard.
"Doug has had a varied recording career, including making what I consider the single, most extraordinary nature recording I've heard; Weddel Seals vocalising under the Antarctic sea ice.
Lang is a deep-hearted man, with a wonder-filled curiosity and connection with the natural world. He achieves such beauty with a pair of microphones. He also delights in playing the clown, so our time in the field was punctuated with amusement at his goofery. I recommend Lang's 'Music of Nature' blog and soundcloud channel. When you click on his blog, you'll see a link to his podcast series, with a photo of him peeking out from behind his beloved SASS microphone. Sarah took that pic of him mucking about during our time in the Adirondacks.
"We spent several days out in the field, frustrated by rain and stormy weather. On our final morning, the sky cleared and winds stilled, allowing this recording."
There are times when I am so unfamiliar with the wildlife of an area that I am unable to identify much of what I've recorded. This is one such occasion - the result of a short time available for the field work, and that as an Australian, the birdlife of north America is a whole new community for me.
However, with many thanks to my friend Lang Elliott and his associate Sean O'Brien, I can offer some identifications:
The frogs calling initially are Spring Peepers (high almost cricket-like chirruping chorus) and American Bullfrogs, sometimes known as Green Frogs (a deep groaning, often chorusing in waves - they continue calling occasionally throughout the morning). An Eastern Kingbird flies overhead calling a few times (most noticeably at 13.28).
Once the dawn chorus begins, it is dominated by the twittering songs of many Swamp Sparrows and a single Olive-sided Flycatcher (repeated up-down whistle; "phe-eeew"). The Swamp Sparrows in particular continue calling throughout the morning. More distantly can be heard the melodic songs of White-throated Sparrows, a slightly mournful descending phrase of pure whistled notes (one close at 74.58 and 114.57).
Later in the morning, as the dawn chorus subsides, we hear vocalisations other than dawnsong, from a variety of species.
Ruby-crowned Kinglets have very high-pitched notes leading into sweet melodic songs (softly at 87.05, and a nice one at 92.00). A Common Grackle interjects loud calls (at 88.07 and thereafter), and a Pine Warbler calls regularly and sometimes quite close, with a trill so fast its almost a rattle (eg; 88.25). A Belted Kingfisher is also heard, and this IS a rattle, somewhat harsh (88.51). Hairy Woodpeckers call every now and then with a rapid chuckle (89.00, 93.19).
The deliberate melodic song of an American Robin is heard in sequences lasting a minute or two at a time (94.17). Even though called a 'robin', it really is a member of the Turdidae (thrushes), and its song has such a thrush-family character.
A Yellow-rumped Warbler gives short, trilled songs - actually they really are a warble (112.14, 112.28, 112.38...), and around the same time can be heard the very high-frequency 'seet' calls of Cedar Waxwings (try just after the Grackle call at 112.34, or 113.34).
A Blue Jay gives nasal descending calls (130.18-131.56). Red-winged Blackbirds love marshy, wet areas, and can be heard throughout but mostly in the distance. A few closer 'rattles' (135.52, 136.02) followed by 'tutting' (136.08...). And just to round out the anuran species is the distant, single 'clack's of a Mink Frog.
Other species present include Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Purple Finch, Northern Parula, and possibly an Eastern Bluebird.
My sincere thanks to Sean O'Brien for these identifications, and if anyone would like to add to them I'd be very interested to hear, and I'll add further notes here.
The Adirondack Mountains is an extensive wild area comprising uplands, forests, waterways and lakes. It is largely protected within Wild Forest and Wilderness parks. That such a large region is protected in this way, particularly in this part of the country, is a tribute the American National Parks system.