For the 100th post of the World Sounds project I wanted to share one of my most memorable field recording moments in recent years which happened during a recording trip to Le Perche Natural Park in early spring 2017. I had set off for the Forêt Domaniale de Senonches before dawn hoping to record the local woodpecker population. The previous evening I had scouted out the location and with the help of my flashlight I made my way to the spot I wanted to record at. I setup my mics in a small opening then ran some long cables off to the side, hit record, sat down in the soft leaf litter covering the forest floor and waited for the first birds to start singing.
About thirty minutes had past and although the woodpeckers hadn’t made an appearance yet, a beautiful dawn chorus was well underway with a great variety of birds singing throughout the forest. I sat listening on my headphones, immersed in the beautiful natural reverb of the forest. Suddenly I heard some rustling off to my right. I had no idea what kind of animal could be making this noise, nor whether I’d actually be able to see what it was. I slowly turned my head and to my surprise I saw a young Roe Deer literally about 15 metres from where I was sat. I stayed still, tried to slow down my breathing and observed as this beautiful creature sniffed around some bushes. It’s likely the deer was either on it’s way to, or on it’s way back from the nearby pond. About thirty seconds after I saw the deer, it spotted me and immediately darted off.
I remained silent, and continued recording the dawn chorus, whilst contemplating how honoured I was to have experienced this unexpected meeting. Another thirty seconds or so passed by before I heard an incredible bark reverberate through the entire forest. A few seconds later another bark, then another, each time the sound bounced around the natural amphitheatre of the forest. Although I wasn’t aware of this at the time Roe Deer bark, often repeatedly, when alarmed and I had clearly scared the hell out of this local resident when it stumbled across me sitting on the forest floor. A truly memorable moment.
The main reason this is one of my most memorable field recording moments in recent years is that it was so unexpected. To be this close to a wild deer is rare and I was not expecting this at all. Over the years I have recorded many, many times in forests around the world and I always try to take the same approach. Enter the habitat discretely and proceed with care, aiming to minimise disturbances to the wildlife whilst all the time remembering to act as a guest. Setup equipment quietly and finish setting up at least twenty minutes before you want to start recording, allowing time for the wildlife to settle back down. Use long cables and leave the mics away from where you will stand or sit in order to minimise rustling clothes or breathing (or rumbling stomachs) being captured in the recording. These simple steps usually help to capture unspoiled soundscape recordings, and in this case also helped me capture something that was totally unplanned. Whilst we can control some elements of this craft via knowledge of equipment, careful planning etc, fortune plays a huge part in successful field recording.
This recording was awarded the Individual Reserved Winner in the Wildlife Sound Recording Society (WSRS) 2018 Competition. I feel lucky to have seen the deer so close, and to have heard it’s warning calls cut through the entire forest. A wonderful experience that is a fitting way to celebrate the 100th post on www.world-sounds.org.
Photo credit : Peter Trimming (Creative Commons)