Walka Lake is situated on the edge of the rural city of Maitland. A reservoir surrounded by parks and bushland, it is a haven for waterfowl and native birdlife, and this recording takes us through a day by its shoreline.
Throughout the night, a community of tiny Crinia froglets have been chorusing from reedbeds surrounding the lake. As the first light of dawn enters the sky, a pair of Black Swans bugle gently as they float on the still waters, the wings of waterfowl whistle overhead, and the calls of ducks echo off the treeline.
From surrounding bushland, the dawn chorus begins with kookaburras, magpies, honeyeaters, whistlers, robins and spinebills. As the morning warms up, flocks of silvereyes and yellow thornbills move through the tree canopy, while fantails flutter acrobatically and fairy-wrens trill from the undergrowth.
Meanwhile, coots dabbling near the shore occasionally erupt in an agitation of splashing and explosive calls. Ravens, lorikeets, galahs and black cockatoos can be heard occasionally as they wing over the lake, and a grey shrike thrush gives a virtuosic display of subsong nearby.
By late morning, a breeze has sprung up, stirring the foliage of the casuarinas lining the shore. At this point, we take a midday break, and listen instead to the life under the waters of the lake itself, a secret soundscape of tiny aquatic insects.
We return in the late afternoon, as birds give their last calls of the day. A white-faced heron barks wheezily as it flaps past, and as the light fades, the Crinia froglets again begin their nocturnal chorus. With dusk, everything settles down, except the coots, which indulge in a last flurry of commotion out on the still waters.
This recording was made as a commission from Maitland City Council. Their project, focused around an app, utilises audio to educate about the site to visitors and local residents, and communicate its natural values. As a nature sound person, I'm encouraged when projects like this are initiated by people who can appreciate how evocative sound and listening can be.
I had four days in which to work, and utilising three recording rigs, collected recordings from different locations around the lakeshore, both throughout the night and day. I also employed a pair of hydrophones to gather recordings of aquatic insects from below the water.
Walka Lake is a man-made reservoir, constructed in the 1880s to supply safe drinking water to the lower Hunter Valley. Although the functioning Water Works was decommissioned in the late 1920s, the lake has remained a refuge for waterfowl ever since. More recently, the City Council has embarked on extensive restoration of the surrounding bushland, removing weeds and replanting with native trees and shrubs.
When visitors come to the lake today, they find a picturesque location which is home to the diversity of waterfowl and birdlife heard on this recording.
My focus was to both highlight the healthy community of bush birds that has resulted from revegetation works, and at the same time, capture the activity of waterfowl on the lake itself.
Being close to Maitland city, and with a rail line passing by the perimeter, the drift of urban noise was an issue. However by using the topography of the site when placing my microphones, and with favourable weather, I ended up with many hours of material. With selective editing and careful processing in the studio, I'm very pleased with the results.
released October 15, 2019
Walka Lake Reserve, Maitland, NSW
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