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The Sacred Forests of India - Kotagarh

by Andrew Skeoch

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Jungle owlets are heard in the darkness before dawn at Kotagarh forest, their calls segueing into the first song of a drongo. With first light we move deeper into the forest, where dew falls onto dry leaf litter as the day's birdsong begins.

Later in the morning, the forest's birdlife, including orioles, parakeets, scimitar babblers, barbets, flowerpeckers and tiny prinias call as they go about their activities, their voices drifting among the trees.

This album is comprised of three sequences; predawn and dawn recordings setting the scene for a longer morning birdsong ambience.


Kotagarh is a mosaic of forest areas in Orissa state of eastern peninsular India. Our visit there was brief and beset with difficulties, most of which involved communicating our purpose to local forest rangers.

Kotagarh is in a remote area, with the forest service headquartered at a small rural village. Despite having full documentation and permissions, these papers had not arrived before us and we spent a full day in negotiations, unsure if we would be permitted to enter the forest the following morning.

Eventually we arose in the early hours, collected two rangers who would accompany us, and after an interminable ritual of drinking chai in the village street, set off for the forest an hour away. Despite the delays we arrived before dawn, only to have the rangers caution our entry into the forest until daylight due to concern there may be elephants.

I recorded the jungle owlets on the edge of the forest, and the second track under the trees as we first made our way in. The longer track was recorded once we'd walked deeper into the forest. We never saw any evidence of elephants that morning.

At first I felt our recording endeavours at Kotagarh had been unrewarding, especially considering the efforts we'd made to get there. But taken as a document of this remote region and its birdlife, we decided our recording deserves to be heard, and is actually a pleasant listen.

It is also an acknowledgement of the commitment of those forest rangers, who work to balance protection of the natural environment with the needs of local villagers. Elephants are often the least of their concerns.


released August 29, 2018

Recording location:
Kotagarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Orissa State, India


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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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