Half-way report, part 1 of 5
Here we are, at the beginning of November, 2016, at the half-way mark for The Northwest Soundscapes Project. How have we done? What are the hits and misses, successes and failures we’ve had along the way?
NWS01: Mt Adams area, May 12-14, 2016
This was a dry run for recording in Double Mid-Side, to see if this was indeed the path I wanted to go down for recording these ambiences. Fortunately it was!
This trip took us to the Trout Creek Campground near Mt. Adams, Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and back up into the Mt. Adams Wilderness. I’ll be returning here next Spring, not just because I love the area, but also to revisit some of the earlier locations I recorded after having had the long practice throughout the year.
Trout Creek Campground
I arrived early in the morning of the 12th of May and set up near a still-water riparian area. This being the Cascade Mountains range, there was plenty of distant water wash everywhere, from small rivers and streams to snowmelt runoff. I managed to find a nice quiet area to set up, though, and spent the next 24 hours there. The non-riparian portion of the forest here was filled with typical Cascades’ evergreens such as Douglas Fir, Spruce, and the like. Near the water there was a greater abundance of Cottonwoods and other more deciduous trees.
These forests are filled with woodpeckers, thrushes, Pacific Wrens, and more. Speaking of thrushes, this is an area where you just can’t get away from American Robins during the morning and evening. Mid-day they tend to be quiet, probably foraging or resting form the hot sun. Mornings and evenings, however, the world is their stage. Their evening call is slightly faster, as if they’re ready for bed and can’t wait for their shift to end. Woodpeckers dominated the mid-day.
Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge
The next day, the 13th of May, I rose early to record the dawn awakening and then set off for Conboy Lake. Conboy Lake is not a true year-round lake, but a dense marshy area that fills with snowmelt from the end of winter throughout the spring, forming a temporary lake that slows drains off throughout the long summer. It’s an important stopover for migratory birds such as Sandhill Crane, but also provides a year-round sanctuary for all manner of creatures, great and small. From typical Pacific Northwest songbirds such as Marsh Wren and Redwing Blackbirds, to Meadow Larks and Tree Swallows, to year-round populations of elk and mule deer, to coyotes, to bobcats and mountain lions, this is a place that has life all year round.
I spent the day driving around the area, looking for an ideal spot to record. As rural and quiet as it is, this can still be a difficult thing to do. Small sounds carry long distances in quiet places. Loud sounds carry still farther. Any car within a couple miles was audible through the microphones, so even when a location LOOKED perfect, it was still problematic.
My favorite recording came at dusk on this day. I found a secluded back-road through the refuge and set up on the border of a closed-off sanctuary marsh. The evening started with blackbirds and wrens, but those quickly faded away while the the insects, frogs, and snipe came out. Oh, those snipe. I had no idea what they were at first and needed a naturalist friend to identify them for me. This evening setting is a recording I can listen to over and over.
That night I camped in a turn-out just outside of the refuge. It was a quiet night, but the insects were happy to sing for me. In the morning I made my way back into the Lake portion of the refuge to record the morning songbirds and Sandhill Crane waking up. It was a beautiful cacophony I want to return to again and again.
Mt. Adams’ Wilderness
Later in the day I moseyed on back into the Mt Adams Wilderness.
There had been a late snow, and roads were still closed going up into the mountain, so I had to stay at lower altitudes. Still, I found a quiet place to spend the afternoon and night. Early on the forest floor was thick with flies. This is fairly common, if sometimes annoying. Without taking careful notes it can often be difficult listening later, trying to suss out if a sound is from buzzing insects or distant chainsaws. Fortunately, this is not currently a logging area, so chainsaws were fairly easy to rule out. Later in the day and most of the night there was some fairly heavy rain, with minor flash floods in nearby campsites. I was safe, but I had a brief worry as to whether or not I’d be able to leave in the morning. Fortunately the road out drained fast and I was left just testing the mud-worthiness of my vehicle.
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