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About My Blog

I began this blog in the fall of 2012 to chronicle my journey of learning to listen and record natural sounds. I’m a field biologist by training, and have spent most of my life outside, camping, hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing. And although I avoid noisy places, like most people, I had never really stopped to listen to my surroundings. My background is in the social behavior of mammals, so naturally I was drawn to their sounds, but I’ve also learned a new appreciation for the sounds of birds and insects.

And water. Have you ever listened to how each stream has its own sound? Or how the sound changes as you move up or downstream?

What I’ve learned so far is that hearing is one of our most important senses. Through sound we monitor our environment – sounds alert us to danger, help us find food, help us communicate, fires us up and calms us down. Bird noises in particular are one of our best indications of what is going on around us – alarm calls tell us to pay attention, a dawn chorus tells us its time to get up. Yet we have filled up the world with the sounds of our machines, and in many cases, rather than try to reduce the noise, we tune it out or mask it with yet more noise. It is getting harder and harder to find places free of the sounds of human machines. Peace and quiet are becoming things of the past.

So come with me on this journey and explore some sights and sounds of wild North America. Most of my recordings are focused on the American Southwest – but I hope it doesn’t stop there!  My hope with this blog is to encourage you to stop and listen, if just for a moment, at some of the wondrous sounds of the wild.  I hope the sounds and stories evoke memories and awareness, so that there will always be quiet, wild places.

I discuss the equipment I use and other aspects of nature sound recording under “Equipment.

My recordings of nature sounds from the southwestern US are available in Albums.

I have also put together a page on Facebook about listening to natural sounds here, and a Pinterest board of resources for sound recording. Please Like and Follow, and join the discussion!

You can reach me at chris@wildmountainechoes.com

Disclosure:  I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC and B & H Photo Associates Programs, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide means for a site to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to either Amazon.com or bhphotovideo.com.

 

32 thoughts on “About My Blog

  1. Chris,

    This is a wonderful site. I am a amateur photographer out of Sedalia, Colorado. I have shot a few half way decent videos of the cranes in NM, CO and NE and need some longer audio including loafing, snow geese, and flying en mass if you have any. I’ll pay or trade you a large, gallery-quality print (unless your walls are covered already!).

    Here is a link to a Facebook gallery. The first image makes a fantastic print on matt paper: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10154123236355530.1073742132.588005529&type=1&l=7f6b4e784f

    My email is bblackburn.twg@gmail.com.

    Cheers!

    Bob

    • Hi Bob, Beautiful crane shots! I am in the process of uploading some of my sounds to Orfium. Right now I have one crane track uploaded (https://www.orfium.com/track/494716/dawn-chorus-cranes-near-bosque-del-apache-mtngirl/). It was a flyover at dawn at Bosque del Apache. It can be purchased or licensed. I have some others, including loafing and snow geese that I’ll try to get loaded up this weekend. Let me know if the link works for you. I’m in the process of moving now, otherwise I might take you up on your swap. If you post the videos online, I’d love to see them when you’re finished.

      Take care,

      Chris

  2. Hey Chris,

    I am a 6-7 teacher at Six Directions Indigenous School in Gallup, NM. The kids and I are interested in taking an expeditionary learning venture out to Mt Taylor, and recording a soundscape or bioacoustics for analysis back in the classroom. We have a small budget, and have limited renting abilities locally. Any suggestions? I just want to know what our options are in terms of a “set-it-and-forget-it” recorder that we leave in the field for a week, then retrieve later, versus taking some stereo omnimics and recorders into the field with a lot of excited middle school students.

    Additionally, if you are nearby this is something I would love for you to connect with our students on with regards to your work. Would you be willing to visit in person or do a Google Hangout session with our students?

    Many thanks!

    Alanna

    • Hi Alanna, I’m so excited that you are exploring soundscapes with your students! In terms of set-it-and-forget-it recorders, the best is probably Wildlife Acoustics. They are not cheap, but the company does offers some grants. It’s certainly worth contacting them and explaining what you want to do. Another option is to get a small recorder and attach an external battery. There should be plans on the internet for how to do that. If you have any students that are really into programming, it would be possible to create a recorder, or attach a recorder, to a Raspberry Pi unit. That’s probably a little more involved that you wanted to get. Some of the small recorders do have pretty long battery life, so you could leave one out for a day or two. Check the reviews for battery life, as they do vary a lot.

      That said, if you can’t find a recorder to leave in the field, you can still do a tremendous amount with short site visits. The first thing, of course, is getting the students to stop and listen. They could either try to record at the spot where they are, or leave a recorder and come back to it later (many birds go quiet when you are near, and take about 20 minutes to start calling again). They can record in different habitats, different times of day, and hopefully, different seasons (if you can get them out in the fall, then again in the spring, that would be quite educational!). They would also have recordings to take back to the classroom to analyze. Good free software for that includes Audacity, Raven Lite (Cornell Lab), and Kaleidoscope (Wildlife Acoustics). The latter two have a pretty steep learning curve, but all display spectrograms nicely. One big disadvantage of recording for long periods, as with a set-it-and-forget-it recorder, is having to analyze all of the recordings. It takes at least as long to analyze the recording (sometimes 2-3 times as long) as it does to make the recording.

      Rather than external mics, I would look for small handheld recorders with built-in stereo mics (Tascam, Zoom, Olympus). With the correct settings and placement in the field, they can obtain very good recordings. If you have the option of going out at night, check out the Ultramic (Dodotronics) paired with the Bat Recorder app on an Android Phone. It records ultrasonic sounds (bats, insects) and displays a live spectrogram. It is unbelievably cool to “see” the bats flying over your head, via the sounds they make. Actually, if you or any of your students have an Android phone, check out the app. It can also use the phones microphones, so you can see bird calls, etc.

      It would be great fun to go out in the field with you and your students. Unfortunately, my elderly father recently broke his back, and I’ve returned to northern Nevada to care for him. I’m not sure when I’ll make it back to AZ or NM. My schedule is very weird right now, so I can’t commit to a Google Hangout session, but keep me posted and perhaps some time will open up.

      Keep me posted about the project. It might make in interesting blog post, if you and your students are willing, which will hopefully motivate other instructors to get their students out recording.

      Cheers,

      Chris

  3. hello chris,
    I am the team lead for dragon king development and we are working on pushing our first (video) game,
    my recording needs are a bit more unique.
    for instance, I need the movement of trees, wind, rain, storms, and streams etc, but usually they must be separate tracks so they can be placed in the environment accordingly,
    as well as getting basic sounds like rocks collapsing or footsteps on different terrain,
    so I was wondering what audio setup would be best for me, hopefully around <150-200$range,
    also if you have any recordings that might suit my needs that I may use.
    screenshots, as I have not made any update videos in the past month and the game looks drastically different:
    https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/188384766423334912/226555411711524866/unknown.png
    https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/200803253611528194/227166282896637956/unknown.png

    • Hi Sam,
      Best bet for your type of recording would be a shotgun mic, into a small recorder that provides XLR power. An inexpensive setup would probably be in the $500-600 range for recorder and mic.
      There a many sound effects recordists that record for video games. Google Paul Virostek of Creative Field Recording. He has a ton of info on his blog about recording and field recordists. With all of the available material out there, it might be easier to start with purchasing recordings, maybe supplementing with unusual stuff. But Virostek’s site will get you started. Hope that helps.

  4. Hi Christine,

    I came across your blog while researching field recording as I’m interested in getting into it and trying it out myself. I’ve really enjoyed exploring your posts, photos and recordings. They’re great 🙂 Being new to field recording, I especially like your posts on equipment. It’s been really helpful.

    I was hoping you might have some advice regarding portable recorders. I’m interested in recording, indoor and outdoor soundscapes, as well as capturing sound with contact microphones and, when a budget permits, a shot gun microphone. It would be nice to find an affordable portable recorder ($300-ish range) which supplies phantom power without noisy preamps and could support these interests. However, a lot of what I’ve read seems to suggest that noisy preamps are just a reality of such a budget. Any thoughts or advice you might have would be really appreciated!

    Thanks again so much for the wonderful recordings and blog! All the best,

    Nick

    • Thanks for the question, Nick. I think there are two ways to go about this. One is to get a middle-of-the-road recorder that has ok pre-amps, onboard mics, and can accept both PIP and XLR mics. Something like a Tascam or Zoom H6. The other way is to go for more specialized recorders with better pre-amps, but that aren’t so specialized. The Fostex FR2-LE or the Marantz PCM-661 are very good recorders for phantom-powered mics, but don’t work with PIP. The Sony PCM-D100 is an excellent recorder that does PIP but not phantom (and is a bit higher than your budget). Ultimately, I think the Tascams or the newer Zooms have the most flexibility, and not too bad on the pre-amps. Check out the Avisoft recorder site to get the specs; that might help. A number of recordists insist that you’re better off with a so-so recorder and very expensive mic, than the other way around. Technique is also important, and takes a lot of time to learn. Some of my best recordings were with a Zoom H4n, which is a very noisy recorder. I got lucky with the recording, and spent a lot of time cleaning up the noise. Good luck!

      • Hi Christine,

        Thanks so much for your help with my question. I really appreciate your thoughts on the different recorders and their capabilities. It’ll definitely help in the selection process! I think it’s also easy to overlook how important technique would ultimately end up being in capturing quality sound (especially for someone new to field recording like myself) so thank you for pointing that out. Thanks, Christine! All the best 🙂

  5. Hi, Chris. You have some great recordings, and I’m in need of nature sounds for background atmosphere on an album I’m creating. Once purchased, do you have any problems with re-use of your recordings?

  6. Hi Chris, I’m a sound enthusiast who works in the film biz and I also do lots of research and exploration just to satisfy my own curiosity. I’m looking for good locations to record echoes and wanted to get your thoughts. If you’d care to respond I’d really appreciate any spots you’ve come across
    Thanks!
    Richard

    • Hi Richard, In spite of the website’s name, I really haven’t recorded many echoes. I have inadvertently picked up coyote howls and elk bugles echoing off water and landscape, which I think was caused as much by the evening temperature inversions as the landscape, but I haven’t tried to record in anything like a natural echo chamber. But now you have me intrigued, and I will keep it in mind if any opportunities arise. Have you found any good areas? What sort of echoes did you record?

      • Hi Christine, I’ve scouted a large number of spots in Angeles Forest north of LA which produce very distinct 1-2 sec echoes – not repeating but one distinct echo. Also looking at dam faces…..Would love to hear of any thoughts which you may have

        • I’m guessing there would be some great spots in the canyon country of southern Utah. Chevelon Canyon on the Rock Art Ranch in northern Arizona might be a good spot (I blogged about it in “Canyon Voices”). The echoes of the water on the canyon walls created some interesting sounds. I didn’t try creating any echoes, though. If you contact the ranch owner (google it) he might be able to tell you more. Those single echoes on SoCal sound very cool. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like that.

  7. Great to find you and your blog online, Chris. Miss the AZ forests but lots of great wild sounds up here among the Glacier NP woods and waters. Got any coati troop conversations? 🙂 Steve B

    • Hey Steve, I’m actually doing a lot of work with coati vocalizations right now, so I hope to have some sounds up soon. I miss the Montana forests!

  8. Hey Chris – I just found your blog thanks to your post on Facebook! I am enjoying your writing! – Jeanmarie

  9. I am delighted to discover your blog site via Nature Blog Network. I am also a field biologist (marine), blogger, and a beginning collector of sounds. This last summer I did a Bernie Krause experiment comparing sounds in separate mini-ecosystems in a forest setting. The differences were amazing. It was then that I realized the power of soundscape studies and the impact of human noise and activities like logging and grazing. If you are interested, I’ve written two posts about sounds in Nature and the value of quiet at http://bit.ly/SW4Skj . I am also a regular visitor to the SPR where, like yourself, I hope to do some soundscape work this winter. .

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