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American Soundscapes - Canyonlands

by Andrew Skeoch

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Common Raven 09:26
Rock Wren 06:37
Say's Phoebe 06:53


Among the desert canyons of America's southwest, the modern world seems far removed.

In a tributary canyon, massive rock walls tower above, and the dry floor descends over rocky escarpments toward the main valley, from where a distant rush of water can faintly be heard.

The song of the Canyon Wren is distinctive of this landscape, a falling cascade of notes amplified in reverberation off the hard rocks. It is spring, and despite the arid surroundings, birdlife abounds; warblers, vireos, towhees, sparrows and finches can all be heard singing. Some choose prominent perches atop boulders, utilising the acoustic, while others call from among the scattered pinyon pines or flowering shrubs.

A hummingbird appears, whizzing past. Shortly after, it can be heard giving its shuttle songflight, a series of aerial manoeuvres accompanied by a rhythmic purr and buzz of wings.

At one point you can hear the landscape itself, when a rock dislodges to clatter and thud heavily below. Rock Wrens, another characteristic inhabitant of this country, are nesting and singing close by. High overhead, flocks of swifts chatter aloft, and ravens tumble in the thermals, alighting to call, their harsh voices evocative in the desert air.


This album comes from a single ambient recording, made facing a great curved rockwall, in a canyon which acted like a natural amphitheatre. For nearly a week, I placed my microphones in this location, both day and night, in hopes of a serendipitous recording. Often, the wind would disturb my efforts, or the birdsong would be sparse, while the nights were largely silent. But on this sunlit morning, the wildlife and acoustics were superb.

This was also the first occasion in my life that I witnessed hummingbirds, and I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I was. Sarah describes them as '8 grams of pure delight'. I was pleased to find on this recording that they had flown within inches of the microphone, and performed their unique songflight directly overhead.


released May 1, 2014

Recording location:
Calf Creek, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah


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Andrew Skeoch Australia

Andrew is a master wildlife field recordist. For over 30 years, he and partner / photographer Sarah Koschak have been documenting the voices of the world's ecosystems and wild creatures. The resulting recordings have been published through their dedicated label: Listening Earth ... more

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