A few days ago I returned from a very productive trip to a place called the Black River in central Sweden. The trip was organized by Stefan Taylor and Kari Knight with the help of fellow sound recordist Richard Youell. We were also joined by Stijn Demeuleneare, sound artist based in Belgium and Tony Fulford, Ornithologist from the UK. Pete Smith had been to the place in April and only had good things to say about it, so I didn't think twice before booking my place.
The first reason I decided to go on this trip is the variety of habitats within reach. We were able to record in wetland, woodland patches, relatively dense forest and the many lakes that dotted the area. There was occasional road and air traffic, but never as pervasive as what I'm used to in the UK. Also, since Stefan knew the place very well he was able to take us to excellent places where we could leave out gear overnight.
Having learnt my lesson on my recent trip to Romania (which I will write about at some point), I packed for hot, cold, dry and wet weather, regardless of what the forecast said. Fortunately it only rained twice and for very short periods of time. We were extremely lucky in this regard as we were able to record through all 4 nights that we stayed there, and also during most of the days. Wind was a problem for recording soft ambience on only one occasion, which is more than I could have hoped for.
As soon as we got to the cabin we headed out for a short recce. The Black River and adjacent bog was 5 minutes away on foot so this was our first introduction to the place. I was happy to hear species such as Bittern, Snipe, Lapwing and Spotted Crake calling, as in the snippet below.
Over the next days we discovered a patch of forest 15 minutes away from the cabin, a few lakes, several deeper forests, nice places where Capercaillie and Black Grouse would lek, and a few trees by the road where Thrush Nightingales would sing their heart out. Most importantly however is that all these places were reachable by car in less than half an hour.
On the one occasion when wind speed was fairly high (10 mph or so, 7 being where I usually stop recording) we went out to explore the surroundings and take photos. Stefan was able to call a variety of birds including Pygmy Owls, Cuckoos and Crested Tits by doing his impression of various bird calls. The highlight of that day was seeing and photographing a majestic Great Grey Owl who was out to catch dinner.
As already mentioned we managed to do overnight recordings on all 4 nights that we were there. I came home with around 200 GB of recordings that I still need to listen back to. At times I felt that one main rig and one handheld recorder were not enough for all the excellent places that were within reach.
Deciding where to leave my rig was often difficult, but in the end I focused on my targets for the trip. These were mainly Woodland and Wetland recordings, since I'm currently working on a couple of Surround Sound libraries dealing with this sort of habitats.
One species that we were thrilled to have recorded is the Black Throated Diver (or Loon as it is known in the US). These birds are really shy and mainly call at night when there is no disturbance. We left the rigs out overnight in a place that had excellent acoustics and hoped for the best. There was just a bit of breeze, and the Divers called once around 11pm just after we left. You can hear them in the recording above.
On top of all the awesome recording, photography and hiking, I also enjoyed lengthy conversations on equipment, technique, Ornithology, Sound Art etc. The mix of backgrounds and interests was excellent and made the trip even more enjoyable. The last thing I should mention is that I recorded a Lynx meowing at night in a forest. It might just be a feral cat, but I'll go with Lynx until proven wrong.