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American Soundscapes - Mojave

by Andrew Skeoch

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oakandsage The California desert is a challenging environment in so many ways - alternating ear-ringing silence with extremely loud bursts of noise, while human noises carry for long distances. I’m moving away from Southern California soon and looking for recordings of some of my favorite soundscapes to take with me; this is a beautiful and well executed sound portrait of a diverse and under-appreciated habitat.
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Phainopeplas 06:49
House Finch 08:55
Cactus Wrens 04:00


It is the still moments before dawn. We listen near a dry outwash at the foothills of the Granite Mountains in the Mojave desert. The air is chill, and sounds carry from far off.

The first birds begin calling in the dark, their voices drifting over the scrubby plains. From rocky slopes come the echoes of a Coyote pack in full cry, while a pair of Great Horned Owls call as they patrol their territory.

As the dawn chorus grows, we hear a variety of western desert birdsong; Sparrows, Wrens, Flycatchers and Thrashers. Jet-black Phainopeplas whistle pleasantly as they flit between yucca bushes. A community of Gambel's Quail call prominently as they socialise, sometimes coming very close and clucking nearby.

A Northern Mockingbird begins a stream-of-consciousness oration, including extraordinary mimicry of Jays and other species. A family of Cactus Wrens sing from atop nearby shrubs, and a tiny Hummingbird buzzes our ear.

As the morning birdsong ebbs, we hear the trill of an Antelope Squirrel, and the soft barking call of a female Roadrunner.


The Mojave felt like the Australian deserts we know so well; of course uniquely different with Joshua trees and cactii, but familiar enough in spirit.

However it was dead quiet in the late afternoon as we set up camp, and we could only be hopeful that the place would sound more animated the next morning. Fortunately, the air was still, and the landscape came alive with the most diverse variety of sounds. We really were fortunate.

This recording begins quietly, with sounds carrying from way off. Later we had Quail under the microphone stand, and a Mockingbird singing lustily nearby - the volume dynamics get pretty wild! So begin listening softly, and let the recording grow in intensity.


released August 15, 2013

Recording location:
Near Granite Mountains, Southern Mojave Desert, California


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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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