The forests and woodlands of the British Isles have special and often remarkable acoustic qualities, varying with the changing seasons and habitat. Chris Watson, one of the world’s leading recorders of wildlife, has created an installation of woodland sound, revealing the voices of the trees that spills out across the landscape.
Within the UK there is a broad division of forest types from the evergreen coniferous forests of the north to the deciduous woodlands in the south and east. During spring and early summer across all our habitats we experience the annual evolution of the dawn chorus, a powerful outpouring of songs and signals from both resident and migrant birds.
Speyside, Great Wood of Caledon
In the ancient Scots pines of Speyside, a remnant of the Great Wood Of Caledon, the May chorus starts from around 0400h. Over a ninety-minute period the songs coalesce into a silver wall of sound which is coloured by the delays and reverberations from the adjacent trees. The high frequency rhythms of Crested tits, crossbill, goldcrest and song thrush mix and merge over the fissured red bark and the result is an almost cathedral like quality to the sound. The broad trunks of the ‘Grannie’ pines cast a sparkle through the canopy and bright green forest floor, a sound to evoke spirits and inspire the imagination, something that these places have been doing for artists and musicians for thousands of years.
Gransden Wood, Cambridgeshire
Almost six hundred miles to the south the chorus in Gransden Wood in Cambridgeshire begins with a solo. At 0230h a nightingale recently arrived from sub-Saharan Africa sings into the night sky. Female nightingales migrate at night and may be called down by these lingering liquid notes. In just over one hour the wood is full of a thickly woven mosaic of songs blurring into what I believe is the very best dawn chorus in the world.