Listening to Bats – Audio by Peter Brooks

The Land Lines website is delighted to showcase a variety of exciting audio work with you over the month of November! As part of the Tracks, Traces and Trails: Nature Revealed project, we have a brilliant range of soundscapes and audio recordings from both new and established sound artists, which explore new ways of listening to and connecting with our environment and the nonhuman life that we share it with. 

Photo by Angeles Balaguer via Pixabay

Note from the Creator

My work is with sound: found sound, both ‘natural’ (of non-human origin), and also sound created either directly or indirectly by humans. 

Sound is often treated casually. People make sounds – “noise” – often without thinking about it or the effect on others. The human brain thankfully has the ability to ignore or shut out many of these sounds, but when they accumulate, this makes it hard for those of us living in well-populated areas to ever experience silence.

Trying to record natural sounds and listening in a concentrated manner reveals industrial noise, road traffic sounds, distant aircraft and many other sounds, even when recording in a rural area.

Humans have the power to control this, or at least to raise objections. Consider the effect on wildlife: how is an owl supposed to hear its food moving? Birds must sing louder to attract a mate, which in turn causes an energy deficit and may make breeding more unlikely. Are we unwittingly causing even more environmental damage?

Listening to Bats

There are eighteen species of bat resident in the UK. Often seen at dusk, bats come out of their roosts to feed on flying insects during the night hours. They produce ultrasonic sounds and listen for the echoes of these sounds in order to navigate their environment, find and catch insects and communicate with each other. These sounds are at frequencies well above those which humans can hear so the recordings are slowed down to lower the frequency, but also time-compressed so the duration and elapsed times are as real.

Pipistrellus pipistrellus – the Common Pipistrelle Bat, Sheffield UK

Eptesicus serotinus – the Common Serotine Bat, Crowcombe UK

Ectopistes migratorius – the Passenger Pigeon

Ectopistes migratorius, By J. G. Hubbard (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Up until the nineteenth century, it was estimated that there were around 3 billion individual birds. The Passenger Pigeon was endemic to North America, migrating around the continent in vast flocks searching for food and having roosting sites typically measuring 16km x 5km. With the spread of colonisation resulting in the destruction of their habitat, coupled with commercial hunting as a food source, they were driven into extinction. The last one died in 1914.

This recording is what they sound like today.

Dawn Chorus – Wilson Spring Wood 3rd May 2020

It is estimated that whilst 70% of mammals are nocturnal, most birds are diurnal. Familiar to many of us, is the sound of birds starting the day with the Dawn Chorus. Most pronounced in the Spring when birds are finding mates, the Dawn Chorus starts before the sun rises and continues for a period afterwards.

Recorded in a small wood, surrounded by farmland on the outskirts of Sheffield UK, the sounds of human activity are still present with a low-pitched hum – the noise of the city, and early morning commuter traffic in the distance.

About the Creator 

Peter is a practicing musician mainly in acoustic and jazz genres, and plays in a couple of bands. Working from his home studio he creates his own music and often works with other musicians, recording  and producing their work. He has expanded his activities from studio recording into field recording, with a particular interest in natural sounds and the impact of human activity on them. Peter produces and presents a weekly radio show playing music from unsigned artists in his area.

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