In 2005, Ted Mack and I went on a recording expedition that began on the East coast and extended west to Texas and north through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Manitoba. Along the way we captured a number of compelling soundscapes.
One of my favorites from that journey is Ted’s recording of a dawn chorus at the Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northern Oklahoma, near the Kansas border. It features the musical flight songs of “Tallgrass Pipers,” more commonly known as Upland Sandpipers—their song starts with a gurgling rising trill and ends with a clear downward whistle:
Dawn chorus in tallgrass prairie, 4:30 am, 14 May 2005, the Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Recorded by Ted Mack.
I think this recording really captures the essence of the tallgrass prairie soundscape. Along with the occasional flight songs of the sandpipers (especially in the second half), Dickcissels and Eastern Meadowlarks sing prominently. Listen also for the whistled calls of Northern Bobwhites, as well as the sputters of meadowlarks. Less obvious are the high-pitched insect-like songs of Grasshopper Sparrow.
Tallgrass prairie soundscapes are often “high-ended,” meaning that the majority of birds sing at fairly high frequencies. This recording works for my ears because of the sandpipers—their gurgling and whistling flight songs are fairly low in pitch, providing a musical “bottom end” to the listening experience. This helps ground the recording, which otherwise might be a little too high-pitched and ethereal.
What does everyone think? Is this recording nicely-balanced as-is? Or should I do a little tweaking to make it more “listenable”? Perhaps the pipers are a little too loud? Or maybe they’re just-right? You tell me!