After over two months of strict lockdown during the COVID 19 pandemic, restrictions were finally relaxed in France allowing us to travel more freely. I had been hoping to get out into nature as soon as possible and was so grateful when friends invited me and my family to spend a few days at Saint-André Farivillers, a tiny agricultural hamlet in the Oise region of northern France.
We stayed at a gorgeous cottage surrounded by farmland. As soon as I arrived I noticed just how little noise from human activity there was: no planes, virtually no traffic (just the odd very distant car) and as it was a public holiday there was no noise from agricultural machinery. Perfect recording conditions!
The beautiful garden was full of active birds, with house sparrows nesting in the wall of an old abandoned building, swallows chatting away on telephone lines, chaffinches, blackbirds, blackcaps, cuckoos and wrens singing from nearby trees and shrubs. Pheasants would occasionally call out from further away and cockerels could be heard from nearby farms frequently throughout the day.
I wanted to record the dawn chorus but didn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to set up my gear. So I decided to set up my mics and recorder one evening before going to bed and leave the equipment running overnight. I used a Sony PCM A10 recorder connected to a USB power bank housed in a dry bag and used a pair of LOM MikroUsi mics to record in stereo AB.
In the following soundscape recording we can hear the blackbird who, as very often, is the first bird to sing. As time moves on the blackbird is joined by wood pigeons and some swallows before the sparrows join in, then the chaffinches, wrens and blackcaps also begin to sing. There are also some interesting moments where the sparrows fly very close to the mics, offering an interesting sonic element to the soundscape.
Later that day during discussions over lunch our friends told me about a small wood that was located 1 kilometre from the cottage. Early the next morning I walked down the country lane until I could see the woods. Accessing them meant cutting through a large wheat field but luckily a tractor had left a trail almost to the edge of the wood making it easier to cross. As I entered the woods the temperature dropped and I could hear gorgeous birdsong echoing nicely. The bird species present were your typical european woodland birds: wren, chaffinch, wood pigeon, blackbird, crow, blackcap, bullfinch. We can also hear distant skylarks from the nearby fields and a pheasant occasionally calling out.
It felt so good to get back out into nature after a long period of being confined to an apartment in Paris’ city centre. I am so grateful for our friends’ hospitality and hope to return to see them again in the near future.