I'm nervous as I walk around Wildwood for the first time as a PhD researcher. What if none of the animals make any noise? What if it rains solidly for the entire time I am here? What if I forget to press record?
I point my RØDE NTG1 towards the resident elk. She is beyond huge; I wonder what it would have been like to see megafauna like her in the wild? I politely wish her a good morning.
"Hrm," she replies.
Did you know that some elks respond when you talk to them? Or that bears growl like a dinosaur when they're grumpy? Or that soay sheep only baa when you are pointing the microphone away from them?
It was wonderful to get to know the animals at Wildwood. To learn their daily routines and when they make the most noise (usually just before being fed). I wonder what they must have thought of me - with my mask, hat, headphones and coat, I must have looked barely human to them.
Why was I at Wildwood? In November 2020 - during one of the many COVID lockdowns?
My trip to Wildwood was the first of three bouts of fieldwork I will undertake for my PhD in electroacoustic composition. The purpose of the fieldwork is to produce a sound library of the animals which I will then use to create electroacoustic works. These works will soon be shared for the purpose of public engagement and nature connection.
You can find out more about my PhD research topic here.
I chose Wildwood as one of my fieldwork locations for several reasons. Firstly, I visited endlessly as a child; my grandparents lived nearby and I was an animal-obsessed kid (nothing has changed there!) So I must admit that part of the decision was that I had always dreamed of working there. Secondly, as a life-long enthusiast of British wildlife, I was inspired by the idea of writing a piece based on the sounds of Britain's animals through the years, from the end of the ice age through to present day.
And what a fantastic collection of animals they have! I managed to get recordings of 27 different species - 18 mammals and 9 birds.
Want to have a listen to the Wildwood Sound Library?
You can hear some examples here.
Please do contact me if you would like access to the full Wildwood Sound Library.
Find out more about Wildwood Trust here.