A great place to listen to insects — and birds — is a remote mountain lake in the spring. The surrounding mountians and properties of the cold water make these lakes some of nature's great concert halls. Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist and sonic guide for the this series, recorded the sounds of this lake in Washington’s Methow Valley. The air is so clear of noise you’ll actually be able to hear the tiny splashes of lake trout gobbling up insects from just below the surface. Now let's sit back, relax, and listen the natural concert.
Gordon Hempton: BirdNote Presents.
[A hum of bugs]
Ashley Ahearn: Welcome back to Sound Escapes, a special production from BirdNote. I’m Ashley Ahearn.
Mountain lakes can be exceptional places to listen.
The surrounding slopes don’t just block out noise - they can also transform a remote lake basin into a giant amphitheater.
Gordon Hempton: This is a great example on how you can seek out an ideal concert hall in nature.
Ashley Ahearn: That’s Gordon Hempton, the sound recordist and our sonic guide for this series.
In a moment we’re going to hear one of his favorite recordings - it’s from a secluded spot in the Methow Valley of Washington State.
But first, a note about temperature… many of the lakes in this part of the world are fed by snowmelt and remain fairly cold. That means the air above the surface of the water is often warmer than the water itself.
Sound travels faster through warm layers than through cold ones — so you might think of this lake as a giant funneling microphone.
Gordon Hempton: We are hearing a much larger area than we would normally. Because all sound that enters the surface of the lake continues to travel across the surface, rather than normally radiate out and become faint.
Ashley Ahearn: The sounds of the entire valley - all the insects, birds and animals coming to life on this spring evening - are delivered directly to your ears... thanks to this little lake.
The air is so clear of noise you’ll actually be able to hear tiny splashes… That’s the lake trout gobbling up insects from just below the water’s surface.
Ashley Ahearn: Now to listen as the sunlight weakens, the insects emerge, and the birds sing their good nights, before the frogs take over for the evening.
[Soundscape of Methow Valley]
Ashley Ahearn: So much life in what seems like such a still place… if we just stop to listen.
I’m Ashley Ahearn, and this is Sound Escapes, a special production from BirdNote. We hope you’ve been enjoying the beautiful sonic landscapes Gordon Hempton has shared with us. Next month we’ll be releasing our final episode. Gordon recorded it on the Zabalo River, in the jungles of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
You can subscribe to this podcast, and go back and listen to your favorite episodes anytime, at bird note dot org.
Sound Escapes is made possible by Jim and Birte Falconer of Seattle, Idie Ulsh, and the Horizons Foundation.