Song of the Reeds

photo of a A Reedy Pond near Newcastle, Australia

Yesterday evening, I sat quietly next to a marshy pond full of reeds. It was dead-calm and the marsh came alive with sound as darkness descended:

Soundscape from a reedy pond featuring an Australian Reed Warbler. Recorded at dusk 19 October 2012 along the western edge of the Watagan Mountains near Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. © Lang Elliott.

The clattering of frogs (species unknown) provide a continuous backdrop against which a variety of bird sounds can be heard, as the birds settle-in for the night. Listen for the bell-like tink notes of Bell Miners (featured in my previous blog post), along with soft plaintive whines made by some other bird, which one I do not know. Listen also for trilling tree crickets and the high-pitched buzzes of meadow katydids (long-horned grasshoppers).

photo of an Australian Reed WarblerBut the main songster in the chorus is a very common inhabitant of reed-edged ponds, the Australian Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus australis), a dull brown bird whose rich and varied songs add brilliance to the dusk chorus. The warbler sang from many different perches and usually was invisible to me, but at times I caught glimpses of him singing from tall perches in the rapidly-dimming light.

They say there is a sedge warbler in every patch of reeds here in Australia, no matter how large or small. This patch was no exception, and I could even hear another sounding off from a much smaller marsh some distance behind me.

How lucky I was to find this remote spot, nestled against the base of the Watagan Mountains at the end of a long and narrow valley. Though cows and horses were near, they said not a word and I was blessed to experience the pure voices of nature springing forth from the reedy pool, well out of range of the telltale sounds of humankind.

NOTE: Please don’t play too loud; adjust volume so that the reed warbler is at a pleasant level. And listen with headphones or earbuds if possible, so that you experience the full dimensional effect … my soundscapes are meant to convey the stunning poetry of natural sound, so it is imperative to listen correctly.


  1. This is a brilliant recording! This is the second time I’ve listened to it. Like my previous comment for this blog, I think the whines could be from a parrot or parakeet of some sort. Maybe a Galah, or some other type of cockatoo. I also hear high-pitched jumbles from some sort of songbird.

  2. There is nothing we professional musicians can do that comes close to this. Humans tend to think we have surpassed our first teachers, but we are so wrong. Thank you for sharing these splendid recordings.

  3. Wow. Gorgeous setting and a great composition that was going on for the mics. Well done. You are really finding the gold.

  4. Excellent, beautiful, spectacular recording! I have no idea what the frogs are either. I hear the miners in the background, and I also hear an Eastern Whipbird. In case you read in one of my previous comments, I went to Chicago. I just back home today. While there, I looked for the Monk Parakeet, which has been accidentally introduced to Chicago, and starting to spread in areas of southern Illinois. I didn’t see any, which is a bummer, but that’s part of birding. Sometimes you see things, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you even miss birds.
    At Baker Sanctuary at this years annual Cranefest, I missed a Northern Pintail that had just been sighted. I am still somewhat disappointed, because I have never seen a Northern Pintail.

    I hear another bird in the foreground and background of the recording above that sounds like a parrot or parakeet. Do you know if it is a parrot? I’m guessing Rainbow Lorikeet, because I think I’ve heard them make sounds like that in recordings.

  5. Lang, The songs among the Reeds are just blissful. How much longer are you going to be Down Under? Everday, I can’t wait to Blog and hear what music of nature has inspired you. Your sister, Jackie

  6. What a wonderfully recorded soundscape ! A quiet place filled with life! What microphones and recorder did you use?

  7. Fascinating! It’s wonderful to hear all of these sound clips fresh from the field. The phrasing of the Sedge Wren reminds me of thrasher song.

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