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Birdsong Among the Ruins

by Andrew Skeoch

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Donald Barrie
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Donald Barrie The voices of these bird mingling with the morning voices of bird in our Forest
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From the Mediterranean coast of southern Turkey, a narrow valley ascends into steep mountains. Rising through pine woodlands, it leads to a small plateau overlooking bare peaks and precipitous drops. For countless ages, this valley and its forests were secluded and filled with birdsong.

Sometime around 2300 years ago, people began establishing a fortified settlement in the upper valley. The high plateau afforded a naturally unassailable site, which they reinforced with walls built from massive blocks of local stone. The city of Termessos grew, its impregnable position saving it several times over the following centuries from rapacious armies unable to breach its natural defences.

Meanwhile, the birds and wildlife found new opportunities; picking over tilled fields, raiding orchards, nesting in stone wall crevices and exploiting food scraps.

Then came a great earthquake. It destroyed the city's aqueduct, and shortly after, the citadel was completely abandoned. Nature reclaimed the valley.

This recording lets you hear what the valley sounds like today. We begin near the ruined Temple of Artemis, its remaining gateway silhouetted against the approaching dawn. The first birdsong swells until the valley echoes with a rich dawn chorus. With daylight, the soundscape settles into ever-shifting patterns of birdsong.

Later we hear the rasping calls of jays, and its fascinating to consider that they may be birds descended from those that once lived alongside the cities' inhabitants. We conclude with the song of a wren drifting across the well-preserved amphitheatre, situated spectacularly in the upper city with a commanding view of the surrounding mountains.


To visit Termessos today is to find its ancient ruins overgrown with mature forest and alive with birdsong. Jays prowl among fallen columns and wrens hop among collapsed walls. Nightingales sing from dense vegetation that has reclaimed the valley floor. Tits and chaffinches flit among the trees that overhang broken pathways and pavements.

When we visited, I was struck by the effort that had gone into constructing the place. As a work of civilisation it was impressive, but ultimately, nature overtook human effort. Something that could not be foreseen - an earthquake - devastated the city.

I feel that we are in a comparable situation today, where the processes of nature threaten to overtake us through the global threat of climate change. Except that we are in a position to foresee and act. As I listen to this recording of a landscape reclaimed, it reminds me that nature is resilient and adaptable. To stabilise our climate and preserve our way of life we need to adapt too, not so much our way of living as our core beliefs and ideas.

Perhaps this album may be heard as a meditation on impermanence, and renewing our relationship with the natural world. Or it may simply be a lovely morning of birdsong.


released November 9, 2018

Recording Location:
Termessos ruins, Gulluk Mountain (Güllük Dagi) Termessos National Park, Turkey


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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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