Redwings at Meadow Pond

photo of Red-winged Blackbird among cattails (by Lang Elliott)

As I was browsing my soundscape collection a couple of years ago, it occurred to me that I didn’t have a really good example of Red-winged Blackbirds singing and calling in a marsh. So in the spring of 2009, I decided to remedy the situation.

In late April, when the redwings were busy defending their new breeding territories, I homed-in on a small pond at the edge of a meadow in nearby Finger Lakes National Forest. The situation was perfect, except for the presence of a nearby highway. I arrived one calm morning at dawn, set my soundscape microphone at the edge of a patch of cattails, and turned on my recorder. The soundscape was excellent, but within a minute or two a car zoomed by, thwarting my effort. Soon after, I began recording again, only to be interrupted by another car. This pattern of interruptions went on for nearly twenty minutes and I got extremely frustrated. I was ready to call it quits, but decided to give it one last try . . . and to my amazement I snagged a really nice 12-minute segment, absolutely free of disturbance. Halleleujah! Here is a sample:

Red-winged Blackbirds singing in a cattail marsh at the edge of a small pond, 5:35am, 30 April 2009, Finger Lakes National Forest near Reynoldsville, New York. Recorded by Lang Elliott.

This recording is busy with sound. I like the width of the soundscape, with prominent singers both right and left. Luckily none of the redwings came too close to the microphone, so there is pretty good balance throughout, with no really annoying sound events (at least I’m not annoyed by anything, but maybe you are?).

This soundscape is obviously in the “engaging” category, meaning that it involves the listener and helps bring the mind alive. This is not a bad thing. While some recordings lead us into deep relaxation and help us fall asleep, others, like this one, bring our psyches into wakefulness and act as a celebration of the new day. How can we remain asleep when the redwings are so utterly and completely present and awake?

I’d love to hear how this recording effects you personally. Please leave a comment, if you have the time.


  1. recording. won’t play. This Thing Won’t Let Me Put Spaces In. Sorry If It Looks Weird on any other ones but for this one it seems to let me.

  2. In SE NY they came back in mid February last winter! Mid February!!! And then in mid to late March we had hundreds of blackbirds in a local park, some were passing through while others would no doubt breed. This was proven later when the number of blackbirds decreased. Wonderful!

  3. The robin is at 1:05. It calls loudly. It must’ve flown over your microphone or something. Thanks Lang, for telling me the birds I missed. I did hear the Blue Jay after the first Pileated Woodpecker drum and in later parts, and I did hear the faint crow. Yes, that is a Spring Peeper in various parts of the recording.

  4. These are the bird species i hear in this recording: Yellow-Bellied sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker, Black-Capped Chickadee, American Robin, Field Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Red-Winged Blackbird, Bobolink. Let me know if I missed something

  5. Hi Lang,
    oh, the red-winged loveliness!
    my yard used to sound like this recording. I have always wanted to get a recording like this, but until last year didn’t have the equipment. I’m not a professional, by any stretch of the imagination, but I love recording nature sounds.
    I hate winter. it is so silent and white and dead. just the sound of this recording, not even with headphones on, makes my spirit sore like a bird. like one of these birds, in fact, as red-winged blackbirds are my favorite and have been for many years.

  6. My cat loves it! It does bring some real powerful feelings to me. Winter breaking and the first of the year red wings coming back at the end of March.

  7. I can just see the scene before the mics. The warming dawn and the excited activity of the red-wings. THis is a splendid recording that would be great for getting the day started.

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