Common, well-known birds are sometimes the most difficult to characterize with recordings, especially if one desires to convey the mood evoked by the bird’s song. The ubiquitous and well-known American Robin certainly falls into this category. Robins are easy to record because they sing loudly and prominently. But I’ve discovered that close and loud recordings don’t do the song justice—what we remember as comforting and musical ends up jolting our ears.
The soothing quality of the robin’s song can only be conveyed when it is part of a larger and more inclusive soundscape. The singer should be at a distance where the song is richly reverberant, its sharp edges smoothed. This is the way we generally hear robin songs, drifting into our windows at dawn, gently begging us from sleep.
Is capturing such magic an impossible goal? I think not. Consider the following recording that I made last spring in nearby Shindagin Hollow. I set my microphone next to a trickling brook and waited. I could hear a distant Wood Thrush. Soon a robin joined in, singing from several hundred feet away. The mix of sound was intensely pleasurable and I beamed with delight as I made my recording:
A babbling brook with a distant American Robin, 4:37 am, 14 June 2010, Shindagin Hollow near Brooktondale, New York. Recorded by Lang Elliott.
This soundscape definitely fits into the relaxation category. I would love to rise each dawn to such a concert. The babbling brook is mesmerizing. The robin is at the perfect distance, it’s songs richly reverberant. The thrush is also a key player, providing a subtle yet beautifully melodic element to the composition.
I would put this soundscape near the top of the list for relaxation and stress relief. Would you?