No music, no voices, just the sound of the forest coming to life early one morning near Canberra -- where the gum trees grow small and with twisting white trunks. In the twilight of the morning I creep out from under the covers to set up the microphones right next to a dam.
We are on the land of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and not far away there are paddocks, livestock, a road and a farmhouse. But right here all there is, is nature waking up for the day.
Listen for the drops of dew falling from the gumtrees and onto the leaf-litter below.
Listening notes from Ann Jones:
02:34, 04:50 and all through the recording, you can hear rosellas softly chattering to each other, their wing beats as they fly between trees, and the tiny clicks of them cracking open gumnuts to eat the softer seeds inside. They are probably crimson rosellas.
06:17 Australian magpies are the only birds in the world that carol like this.
08:15 Hear those wing beats? It's literally the sound of the air flowing over the feathers of bird wings. There are also black cockies calling in the distance just after this bird flies past.
15:26 This is the wing beat of a tiny bird, such as a thornbill or spinebill. It sounds like fluttering — "pfffffrt pfffffrt" — because they flap so fast each wing beat blurs into one shaky sound.
17:12 A wood duck calls from the dam, and sounds pretty happy with itself really (they always do). You can hear the duck's wings and also its feet on the water.
23:32 The rosellas continue their morning feast, and this is a particularly satisfying gumnut crack.
25:34 This is a rosella's flight call – a "sqwauk" that is often heard receding into the bush. Just ten seconds later, you hear the sweetest sound in the Australian bush – the piping, bell-like tings of the rosella's chiming call.
37:50 The "shhhhhhh" is the sound of a water-skiing wood duck.
40:49 Some small croaks from Crinia signifera – common eastern froglets. These are tiny little things, never getting bigger than 3cm, but their voice is mighty and carries a long way.
42:50 There is a bird having a bath on the edge of the dam.
47:00 The magpies really get going here and they are even joined by a kookaburra!
48:50 A sulphur-crested cockatoo does a flyby.
52:50 There are yellow-tailed black cockies in the distance as the magpies are singing their morning tunes.
1:01:15 A tiny bell-like repeating call of the eastern spinebill, a fetching tiny little bird with a long downward-curved bill for sipping nectar from flowers. Its call is one note, repeated and often getting faster as it goes. It's followed by magpie warbles and rosella chimes — then, a gust of wind pushes through the trees.
1:12:05 This is a white-throated tree creeper calling. It has special feet which enable it to grip onto a vertical surface, and it spends most of its time bouncing in an upwards direction around tree trunks looking for insects to eat.
1:15:40 You can hear a tiny bird, such as a scrubwren bouncing, alighting, flying and hunting in this section.
1:16:35 In the background there is the squeaky-toy beg of a juvenile sulphur-crested cockie, who manages to annoy its parents on both the exhale and inhale.
1:25:00 In this sequence, you can hear multiple magpies and how they sing together, because one is perched away from the microphones, and the other sounds like it's right on top of the microphone. The song is always started by the distant magpie, with the closer magpie joining in to finish the chorus.
1:31:54 The call of the yellow-faced honeyeater, which repeats throughout this whole recording.
1:32:24 The dew drops off the leaves fall onto the ground, and in this case, seem to occasionally hit something metallic!
1:32:40 A willy wagtail scolds in the background, as parrots nip open seeds and the magpie family goes through its repertoire of harmonica impressions.
1:36:38 The day is warming up, and the drips are dripping faster!
1:39:20 These very high pitched "ziiiits" are probably from thornbills, or … some other LBJ (Little Brown Job – birding-slang for a small brown species that is hard to identify).
1:40:50 There goes a wood duck!
1:42:10 The "chuck-chuck-chuck-chuck" call of a red wattlebird.
1:44:12 The little chatterbox call of the Australasian grebe, a tiny waterbird that loves dams like this, where there are areas of tall reeds with open water next door – the best of both worlds!
1:48:06 A rosella is chomping seeds and calling very close to the microphone here. You can hear the multi-tonal qualities of its voice.
1:51:57 Underneath a raucous sulphur-crested cockatoo call there is a sweet descending whistle of a white-throated gerygone (pronounced jeh-RIH-go-knee).
1:52:35 After the raucous cockies, this sounds like corellas chattering. They are both big white parrots, but the corellas do not have a crest, are smaller and have coloured skin around their eyes.
1:57:04 A black-faced cuckoo-shrike calls to its mate. This is a splendid little grey bird with a black mask, which is actually relatively common across all of Australia, though few people could recognise it. It's probably here in this patch of bushland because it borders farmland – they seem to like that semi-open sort of place to live.
1:59:00 The gerygone continues to call, along with a scolding willie wagtail and in the far distance, currawongs ring in the morning.