Every so often, I stumble upon a dawn chorus so rich and vibrant that I am awestruck by the remarkable diversity of sounds and the way they combine to create a well-rounded soundscape.
Such was the case on the morning of June 4, 1993. I was visiting Whitewater Lake, a “Canadian Important Bird Area” located in southwestern Manitoba. In the darkness, I drove to Sexton Island, along the north shore of the lake. I stepped out of my van at first light (5:30am) and the dawn chorus flooded over me like a wave. I was at prairie’s edge, with a large patch of tangled shrubs and small trees in front of me. I scrambled to set up my microphone and managed to capture twelve exquisite minutes before a prop plane ended my effort. Here is a sample:
Rich dawn chorus, 5:30am, 4 June 1993, Sexton Island, along north shore of Whitewater Lake near Boissevain in southwestern Manitoba. Recording © Lang Elliott.
What makes this recording so special? First, there is a wonderful diversity of songbird sounds, ranging from as low as 1000 Hz all the way up to 8000 Hz (and sometimes beyond). Listen for the songs and calls of Gray Catbird, Eastern Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Clay-colored Sparrow, a prominent warbler (what species it that anyway?), Red-winged Blackbird, and more. The lower frequency range, from 500-1000 Hz, is also full of sound. Mourning Doves coo throughout. Woodpeckers drum periodically. Listen closely and you’ll hear the soft grunts of Sharp-tailed Grouse.
This is a busy chorus, for sure, but I find it supremely enjoyable. It so full of life and vigor—nature bubbling over with sound—a powerful expression of health and vitality. In the dead of winter, it is difficult to fathom that a scraggly patch of brush holds such promise, such sweetness, the music of nature at its very best.