29 May – 1 June 2013
My artist residency at Ricklundgården is coming to a close and I feel very lucky to have been able to experience the beautiful and tranquil surroundings. Ive had the support of Gerd the Chairman of the Emma Ricklund Foundation, who has been active in finding several opportunities for me to record birdsong, in various locations (recommended by fellow birders), and even meet with a bird watching mother and son duo.
The sound recordings Ive gathered from the gardens at Ricklundgården and the lake demonstrate the soundscape of just one small area, so when Gerd suggested I go to other places where there were ‘happy birds’, I couldn’t possibly refuse!
The first location was Kultsjöluspen; a stunning small area with several lakes and an island in the centre of dense woodland. It wasn’t the easiest place to get to, because there was no pathway, so I clambered through the woods and over the rocks and ice (which would normally be hidden by the lake), to get to the perfect spot to start recording the sound of the landscape.
Listen to: Bramblings and Redshank, 1.33 mins
Ricklundgården’s museum tour guide and gardener, Annmari kindly offered to take me along to Klimpfjäll, where she was gathering and preparing wood to build a fence for her horses. Along with other birds Annmari had witnessed the sound of the Great snipe, a bird with a long bill that opens and closes it quickly to attract a mate and to defend its territory, unfortunately there were no Great Snipes this time. The three locations she had in mind included the area near her old house beside the lake, a narrow small road with rows of houses opposite the mountains, where the rare Polyglot bird (I couldn’t even find a link for this bird!) had once been spotted (and all of Scandinavia’s birders had lined up to take a peek, including Annmari) and last but not least the Stekeujokk mountain, which had many streams and natural waterfalls, so gathering sound recordings of birds was difficult here!
Listen to: Coal tit, Carrion crow and Willow warbler, 2.20 mins
Listen to: Song thrush, Brambling and Willow warbler, 20 secs
Listen to: Brambling sing-off (between two males), 51 secs
On my walk back down the mountain I heard two male Bramblings, one singing from the left and the other from the right, repeatedly mimicking each other’s song in quick succession. I found some research on Wrens which sounded familiar to the singing battle I’d heard with the Bramblings… Burt and Vehrencamp’s research for Cornell Science Laboratory, have shown that Banded Wrens are listening and responding to one another, sending out purposeful and dynamic messages to multiple neighbours. Furthermore, males used different song types to match different neighbours in rapid succession, evidence that they were communicating in a network, rather than broadcasting songs indiscriminately. The results were published in Animal Communication Networks (Cambridge University Press).
Both Gerd and I were keen for me to meet with others who had a passion for birding, so she arranged for me to meet with Inga and her son Nils to talk about the birds they regularly see and hear in Laxbäcken. I hopped on a bus and about an hour later I was meeting them in a car park outside a school (that would be dodgy if I was at home, but not in Sweden!)
Inga and Nils were passionate about birds and keen to share their years of experience and knowledge, we walked to a few areas along the road and already we were hearing the song of blackcaps and Curlews circling the marshy lake; a common stop off point for migrating birds to refuel before carrying on with their journey. Close-by was a bird watching tower, where I spotted a pair of cranes, a great position to spot birds, but not so great to record their sounds, because of the busy roads with tractors and large vehicles carrying timber.
Listen to: Corn bunting, Carrion crow, Willow warbler, Great tit and Chaffinch, 1.30 mins
Listen to: The Curlew, 1.22 mins
Listen to: Siskin, Coal tit, Brambling and Willow warbler, 1.31 mins
I’d been saving exploring Satsfjället mountain, nearest to Ricklundgården until the last week of my residency, Annmari very kindly drove me to the foot of the mountain, the path leading there was much longer than I thought (I know this because I walked back!) Not being a regular trekker/mountain climber I didnt think to look for a trail to follow, so I just started to climb (clambering with my sound recording equipment), and just over half way I spotted an orange dot on a rock and it dawned on me that this climb could have been so much easier! Watching in disbelief as another (much cleverer) climber skipped along the pathway and trying to forget that I had just dodged trees, rocks and streams on my way up! I climbed to the top (thanks to the orange dots) and was rewarded by two sightings of the same Ptarmigan, (which I thought was a Grouse) who didnt fly away at first, but just ran a little and tutted at me! On my way down I was so focused on where my feet were going that I didnt notice a small herd on reindeer laying on a patch on snow basking in the sun, I used my dads binoculars to see them up close, but they soon spotted me and scarpered. When I was close to the bottom of the mountain, I had another (lucky) sighting of the reindeer, which meant that I could take a photograph! As you can imagine capturing sound recordings on a mountain was either very quiet or very windy, but as well as putting a hole in my sock after a 6 hour expedition, I managed to capture a very quiet recording of the Cuckoo, but the recording of the Capercaillie was too quiet, so click the link to listen on the RSPB website.
Listen to: The Cuckoo (a very quiet recording, so grab some headphones!), 35 secs
My final birding list (see image at the top of the page) at the end of the 3- week artist residency totals 24 birds (‘H’ stands for heard and ‘S’ for seen). Whilst I was communicating with staff at Ricklundgården about my bird sightings and sounds, I was learning more about what the name of each bird was in Swedish. The bird names sounded so much more exotic when Gerd (Chairman of Ricklundgården) said them, so I asked her to read the list, (which totalled 18 at the time, so up to ‘crane’ on the final list) whilst I took a sound recording. Along with Gerd’s sound recording, I took a another recording where I recite the bird list, so that the layered tracks work as an English-Swedish translation. The second recording of Gerd was taken outside my studio in the garden and features her reciting the names of birds as quickly as she could, I like how it sounds like many birds singing and calling all at once, similar to the dawn chorus.
Listen to: Gerd and Lucy reciting the bird list in Swedish and English, 36 secs
Listen to: Gerd reciting the bird list quickly outside the studio, 15 secs