Listening to the BioBlitz at Night (Nature Sound Files)

By Dan Dugan, Nature Sounds Society

I and my partner Sharon Perry, board members of the Nature Sounds Society, have been recording at Muir Woods for many years. One year we recorded the dawn chorus in Cathedral Grove once a month for the full year. Soon I will be publishing one of my best Muir Woods recordings.

The night before BioBlitz 2014, I recorded overnight near Bridge 3 in Muir Woods National Monument. It was showery and the creek was loud, but here are some highlights from the night and dawn.

I record in 4-channel surround. I have a “heavy system” and a “light system” depending on whether I have to hike to the location. The heavy system is all standard professional equipment. The recorder has a ten-second pre-record buffer, so when I’m standing by during the night, when I hear an owl or a coyote, I can push the record button and I’ve already got it. But the heavy system, with stands and cables and all, weighs 30 pounds without any camping gear, so that limits it to locations where I can drive near.

My light system is four Telinga (from Sweden) Clip-On mics and a Zoom H2 recorder modified to have four external mic inputs. With cables and all this system weighs five pounds, so it’s back-packable wherever I can go. No pre-record buffer (well, it has three seconds, but that isn’t enough) so I miss some bumps in the night.

I work with an NPS research permit, and I follow a strict protocol. On location I scout a likely arrangement (or return to a known good spot) and set up a 4-channel array of microphones for surround recording. I start recording 90 minutes before the beginning of astronomical twilight. If there’s a lot of action I’ll start earlier. When I stop I stand by during the night to catch anything that might happen. I usually bivouac without a tent, I like to sleep under the stars. I start a 90-minute dawn recording at the beginning of nautical twilight. That is when the sky just starts to lighten, and the wildlife sees it, too. The dawn chorus usually starts soon after that.

Parks where I have long-term work include Muir Woods, Yosemite, El Polin Spring in Golden Gate National Park, and Joshua Tree.

My first full-length piece, from Mariposa Grove in Yosemite, has just been published (in stereo) by:

Changing Planet

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Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn