Outdoor Ontario



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 In 1948, my father decided that enough was enough and something needed to be done. He never told me what that was but then all that is another story. In that same year someone else had a big idea and wasn’t afraid to go over-the-top. A film called “Words and Music” overwhelmed the audiences. It featured everyone who was anyone in the genre of the time. All the big names made a contribution.

In a more general sense, words and music used to mean something as a delightful marriage that swayed emotions. More recently words are often chosen for the way they sound irrespective of what they mean, sometimes meaning nothing, or nonsense. So, now for something completely different …

Birds and Music
The sounds of nature and in particular the thrill of bird song has been the subject of audio capture ever since portable battery-powered recording technology became readily available and affordable. I recall watching film footage of Dan Gibson recording bird calls using a parabolic microphone apparatus that fed a signal to a Nagra (portable) reel-to-reel tape machine. I still have a couple of Dan Gibson nature recordings on CD format that incorporate well-chosen passages of music. Recording birds with a smart phone is a convenient way to chronicle discoveries in the field for validation at a later date. In the absence of a smartphone, as in my case, there are other handheld devices that accomplish the same thing. Of course, a bulky directional microphone, or a cumbersome parabolic accessory has much greater utility to that aim but not without some awkward inconvenience.

Like words and music, birds and music may be a sublime match. As fulfilling as great music can be it does not preclude marrying music with images, as in movies and music videos to achieve a synergy. Miniature audio technology and inner ear monitors allow you to take recordings with you wherever you trek, including in the field during birding and commensurate with bird photography sessions.

When birding sorties are confined to the GTA area it mandates visiting the same group of hotspots time and time again. Having the opportunity, as most birder’s do, to travel beyond this narrow corridor from Whitby to Mississauga (all south of Steeles) to break free from the urban precincts makes the hot pursuit a lot more interesting and more productive, especially as success pertains to localized sightings of uncommon species as reported on the net.

Returning to urban outings, most GTA hotspots are popular parks, full of visitors (joggers and cyclists), dogs, and to my mind the most annoying intrusion of all in the form of city-run maintenance machines, featuring the most problematic of all … the grass mower; a monster that feeds voraciously on every square meter of grass that can best be described as being too short to need further cutting but fodder to the maintenance contract that is satisfied by frequency, not requirement. But I digress.

All this unwanted and intrusive cacophony can be subdued by playing music while you bird. Much as music enhances what is projected on a motion picture screen, delivering music to one’s ears via ear buds can make birding more rewarding and certainly more pleasurable. Not only can the musical passage prove sympathetic with various bird behavior, given the right choice of music, but it helps to mitigate the noisy intrusions that assail the birder at every juncture. To put it bluntly, I get much less irritated when birding with music.

I was listening to the Lark Ascending by Vaughan-Williams the other day while staring at myself in the mirror and I could see the lividity drain from my face. I usually gag when I look into a mirror so this was undertaken as an experiment. My countenance was recast into a calm repose. A mood enhancement tool that could work in the field. Watching birds while surrounded by appropriate music will likely make the endeavor more relaxing. I could have played hip-hop while staring into the mirror, but then I would just see the intelligence drain from my eyes. 

Imagine that you have just stirred awake in your sleeping bag during the night and you search for your flashlight that is seldom at hand when you really need it. As usual you need to shake it into submission before a weak light barely confronts the darkness because the batteries are as exhausted as a typical Monday morning. The night sky should be clear so you stumble into track pants and fall out of the tent. The flashlight has misfired once again and you desperately shake it but then realize it isn’t really dark enough to need it. The night sky is aflame in starlight and the Milky Way is like a revelation. As your gaze climbs to the heavens the music cues to Ralph Vaughan-Williams 5th symphony in D, the third part … the Romanza. Your mouth is agape and you can taste your tears of joy. Ya, … it’s like that! Do I have your attention?

Having an accessible playlist can enhance certain birding scenarios. Perhaps not every situation lends itself to music enhancement but moments will arise when the sublime takes hold of your senses, such as while watching soaring swallows, or scanning the surface of the mudflat for foraging shorebirds, or even the exhausting frenzy of refocusing on frenetic warblers. It might even help capture better images because the peripheral annoyances are kept at bay. The Vaughan-Williams Romanza also works well when watching raptors gather in the sky during the autumn migrations. A few condors would be nice but we can’t have everything. When you have identified fitting music for a particular birding situation you can add it to your playlist as a folder titled by bird family, such as foraging peeps, and cue up that folder when you are at a littoral setting. A few suggestions on offer:

Exploring a forest in early morning – Rhespighi’s Pines of Rome, 3rd movement
A marsh setting – Rhespighi’s Fountains of Rome, 1st movement, or Dvorak’s Symphony #9, 2nd movement
Hot summer meadow – Rhespighi’s Fountains of Rome, 4th movement
Ducks on calm water on a foggy morning – Bach’s Air suite #3 in D
Watching shorebirds – Bach’s Minuet & Badinerie, or Delibes Notturno
Winter hike through trails in the snow - Bach’s Sinfonia in B
Watching swans – Handel’s Largo from Xerxes
Stationing yourself next to a forest stream – Bach’s Oboe Concerto in D minor
Photographing warblers – Mendelssohn’s Symphony #4 in A, 1st movement
Watching autumn Murmurations of Starlings – Smetana’s The Moldau
On a foggy morning when the sun is sure to burn through - Grieg’s The Last Spring
When Dinu arrives on the scene and everyone steps aside and bows their head in deference – Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries
« Last Edit: August 04, 2021, 06:26:52 pm by Shortsighted »


  • Old Timer
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How do you know so much and remember it all? I will search all the music and let you know.


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Ally, this was not intended as an assignment. If it were you would be at the head of the class. Being a teacher, I guess you just can't help yourself. There are many more possible suggestions for birds and music. Don't get me started on Claude Debussy. But just for a thrill, or a trill, try "On hearing the first cuckoo in spring". These passages work for me. They may leave you cold. You have to remember that I'm nuts, so you'll need to explore the world of music and decide for yourself. If rap works for you, well then, so be it ... I just don't want to hear about it.


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Sounds like you need some sleep?
May I suggest Divertimento in Bb KV287-271 Adagio.
Almost 11 minutes of peace... I used to play it on repeat with earbuds while trying to sleep on Lunch breaks at work .

The dog just fell asleep when I started the song. She destroyed my earbuds today while at the dog park this morning.
Was listening to something really aggressive.
Napper  ;) peace link below

« Last Edit: August 12, 2021, 03:24:47 pm by Napper »
flkr...   Recent updates 2017 old pics
You know your getting old when.....wait, what?


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Music to fall asleep to as recommended by someone called Napper. What could be more appropriate! The trouble with playing music while searching for slumber is that I follow every nuance of the music instead of letting it wash over me. The closest that I've managed to come to being remote to the music, or just having it serve as backdrop is when I'm birding, or when I'm reading fiction, in which case it supplements the drama. This works for both symphonic music as well as instrumental jazz, even bebop frenzy. Oddly enough, bebop supports reading 19th-century literature as well, despite the anachronism. Remember, I'm nuts, so that surreal admixtures are par for the course.
Thanks for the suggestion. I haven't heard it in a long time. Did Mozart have a dog?
« Last Edit: October 12, 2021, 08:20:50 pm by Shortsighted »