Gentle Wills

photo of a Whip-poor-will © Wil HershbergerI’ve told this story time and again. I search through my collection of soundscape recordings that feature particular species and I am disappointed to find that most of the time I got too close, the recordings overpowering the average listener who prefers gentle soundscapes over striking closeups.

Such is the case with the Whip-poor-will. I’ve got tons of recordings but nearly all of them are up close. Nice, for sure, but too loud to listen to for long periods. I was beginning to think I didn’t have any really excellent immersive soundscape recordings of Whip-poor-wills, but then I stumbled across the following one that I made in mid-April of 1995 in Kentucky, shortly after the Whip-poor-wills had returned from migration. Take a listen . . . there are lots of birds involved, some perhaps just passing through:

Numerous Whip-poor-wills singing at night in hardwood forest surrounding a small marsh. 15 April 1995, Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky. Recorded by Lang Elliott.

Do you like this recording? It’s busy with Whip-poor-will’s but they are all at a distance and their songs are resonant, well-integrated into their environment. “Gentle Wills,” I have decided to call them because they are so darned easy on the ears! Listen also for the peeping of Spring Peepers, the chirps of Spring Field Crickets, the buzzy, high-pitched song of a Cone-headed Katydid, and water sounds from the marsh.


  1. Zack: Yes, I hear distant snorts near the beginning of the recording. If I remember right, I actually got some closer recordings of snorts the same night at the same location. Yes too on S. Leopard Frog. Would that everyone listen as carefully as you! You’ll love it when I finally launch my soundscape series of titles for digital download.

  2. Is is just me, or in the background, way in the distance, I hear deer snorts? I know for sure that in part of the recording, if you listening carefully, you’ll hear Southern Leopard Frogs. Also thought I heard a distant dog in part of it.

  3. I could listen to this for hours. Not too loud, not too soft, but like baby bear’s porridge – just right! Do you sell CDs of these recordings? I’d love to play this on a loop.

  4. The Whip-poor-will’s song is one of the most haunting and beautiful of all. The whole environment in the recording brings back wonderful memories of camping in the Ozarks! I just completed a post about one of the Whip’s relatives, the Pauraque. Thanks for sharing these wonderful night sounds!

  5. This is almost hypnotic in its mantra-like repetitive short phrasing … easy to get softly lost in. I wonder if the slight increase in water movement toward the end relates to the very few sotto voce frog voices; perhaps they decided to go for a dip? There is a lot of energy packed into this recording. Great titling — I like your pattern in recent titles of just two or three perfect words.

  6. Towards the end of the recording the katydid and water gets louder I think you must have gotten closer to them? I have volume control on my headset though

  7. Verry relaxing indeed. I don’t know if anyone else thinks so, but the katydid is just a little loud to me. My mother can’t even hear it, so I don’t know if this is so for anybody else. Great recording, Lang!

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