Nature Track is a podcast that opens a window on the beautiful sounds of the Australian wilderness. These long, uninterrupted soundscapes are the perfect relaxing soundtrack for your work, exercise, meditation or sleep. Each unique track is carefully recorded on location in a different part of Australia by the ABC’s nature specialist Ann Jones.
Heavy rain and desert thunder
No music, no talking, just the sound of a rain storm in the desert.
Wiluna is a town on the Traditional lands of the Martu people in Western Australia. It’s on gorgeous arid country, about 960km east of Perth. After days of dry heat in excess of 40, it was late afternoon when a huge storm rolled in. Nowhere has storms like the desert, where the hot air rises off the ground to meet the clouds with huge rumbles and rolls that expand across the whole horizon. The rain continued on and off all night and into the next day when I got up in the morning to smell the wet sands and concrete of the town. Each burst of rain was greeted by bird song throughout the sunrise, and as the human occupants of the town slowly woke up.
Listening notes from Ann Jones:
04:28 Here comes the rain on the tin roof. The galahs scatter, calling. 5:10 A bonded pair of mudlarks (tiwily-tiwilypa), sometimes called peewees or magpie larks. sing a duet together.
10:50 The pied butcherbirds (kararaputa) sing through the rainfall — a repetitive, slightly melancholy melody, and occasionally their diagnostic cackling call that almost sounds like yelling "missing you!" at the end of a quick phone call.
14:30 This repetitive chirping call is a honeyeater, but which sort? Perhaps a yellow-throated miner (piiny-piinypa)? Comment below if you know!
16:24 White-plumed honeyeater (Inatjara) calls sound a little bit like a slide whistle.
20:40 This is probably the alarm call of the white-plumed honeyeater, letting its colleagues know of a danger or annoyance.
21:28 The mudlarks stay in touch and reinforce their relationship by repeating their duet throughout the day.
26:40 Little corellas start to fly and call in tremulous, quaver-y voices. It also sounds as if there is at least one young one with them begging for food, making a monotonous raspy grinding call from a tree.
28:30 Cutting through above all the other birds is the tiny black-and-white willie wagtail (tjitirttjitirt). This call is diagnostic of the willie, and it will make it through the day and night. Listen also for the scolding chika-chika-chika call that the willie will make occasionally, probably to stay in touch with its family members in this context. You can also here two variations on the mudlark duets in this sequence, along with the little corellas.
37:16 There are two possibilities for this corvid call – a torresian crow or a little crow (not tiny ones, that is their species name: little crow).
37:40 The willie wagtail is back!
41:30 The birds all seem to be responding to the rain, or perhaps a change in pressure associated with the rain? There are so many calls from the different species here.
42:20 The incomparable sound of rain on a tin roof.
48:38 The crows are at it again!
47:00 You can occasionally hear a deeper click as water drops actually hit my microphone through this section, the drops were so big they were bouncing up off the ground and up onto the little box I’d put my recorder on under a shelter. My microphone covers were absolutely saturated after I finished this recording.
Dawn at the creek
No music, no voices, just imagine you’re camping beside a creek in early spring.
Listening Notes from Ann:
It was the first hot day of Spring on Wadawurrung Country west of Melbourne. Out of bed before the sun, I walked through the bush listening to the last of the nocturnal sounds, and found a place on a ridgeline overlooking a creek.
There are hundreds of large trees with lots of hollows all scattered across the steep slope down to the creek and I set the recorders out just as the dawn chorus begins in earnest. There is the smallest of overlap between the boobooks calling as they settled to sleep, and the magpies and kookaburras leading the dawn chorus with their greetings to the sun (and territorial threatening screams of course).
There are so, so many species in this recording – too many to list entirely!
00:00:16 The boobook calls. Listen for a second boobook, who calls at 00:00:48, with a slightly different pitch. In the middle of the night, you can hear the boobooks call right along the creek.
00:01:00 Raucous and loud – a family of kookaburras laughs in chorus. They’re communicating with each other and their neighbouring rivals that they’re awake, and fit, and ready to defend their territory today.
00:07:50 Hear a kangaroo stomping and rustling in the grass and sticks probably heading down the hill to find a cosy spot in the lomandra to sleep for the day.
00:10:20 It’s as if they all knew it was going to be a clear, warm day – everyone is singing and calling this morning. What a cacophony!
00:21:40 Sulphur Crested Cockatoos rarely go anywhere without announcing themselves.
00:23:48 The penetrating, rapid fire pipe of the white throated tree creeper repeats itself. These birds possess special feet that enable them to spend their life bouncing up tree trunks searching for insects, rather than grasping onto horizontal branches.
00:26:50 The sound of several pardalotes can be heard throughout the recording with their repetitive stutter note – dik-dik… dik-dik. There are both striated and spotted pardalotes in this recording and there are several nests in the area in tiny little hollows in the trees as well as miniscule little burrows dug into the sides of the track and creek.
00:37:30 Ravens. It’s notoriously difficult to tell the difference between raven species between calls, and I’ve seen both Australasian Ravens and Little Ravens at this spot. But, I do think these are little ravens, because there are so so so many of them. They’re all up and down the creek line communicating with each other with varying intensity and little ravens have a tendency to gather like this.
00:39:20 This is a Shining bronze cuckoo a small bird that looks like it has a slightly spiky hair do and wears a stripey t shirt. Even though it’s wings are sort of iridescent, moving from olive green to eggplant purple, this small bird is inconspicuous and stays hidden in trees searching for caterpillars, sex and someone else’s nest to lay in.
00:42:45 The Australian Magpie’s ability to sing that many notes at once will always astound me. In this part of Australia, the magpies are white backed magpies and even though they’ve got babies in the area, they’ve not been swoopy.
00:44:00 In these ten seconds I can hear: little raven, two types of pardalotes, red wattlebird, grey shrike thrush and a baby magpie, common eastern froglets and there’s also a bird that has a descending whistle that I can’t quite place.
00:45:02 here is a baby magpie annoying its parents for food. They’re almost ALWAYS hungry.
00:45:20 A mix of long-billed corellas and sulphur crested cockatoos in this group. There are several really big old holey trees here and I think some of them have several nesting hollows in each.
00:46:45 Extremely high-pitched melodic call of the grey fantail, darting about waggling it’s tail and scowling.
Midnight Frog Chorus
No music, no voices, just the sound of night time at a swamp on Wadawarrung Country in Victoria.
Listening Notes from Ann Jones:
There are at least three species of frogs calling all the way through this recording – maybe more. And they provide a wonderful blanket of noise for you to snuggle under. Here’s what I can hear:
00:00:07 – The ‘tonk’, ‘bonk’ and ‘donk’ of the pobblebonk (Limnodynastes dumerilii). These frogs are sometimes also called banjo frogs because of their plucking call. They are a relatively big frog, maybe 8 or 9 cm long when fully grown, with a very pleased look on their face.
00:00:15 This is the spotted marsh frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) and it’s an interesting one. It sounds a bit like a striped marsh frog. But Jordann and Gracie from the Australian Museum FrogID team assure me it’s the southern call race of the spotted! In the north part of its range, the call of the spotted marsh frog is entirely different than in western Victoria.
00:00:44 The consisted creaking of thousands of common eastern froglets. Individually they sometimes sound like a ratchet creaking back, but together it’s a cacophony of clicks all blending together. These are tiny little things, even when fully grown they might hit a top of 3 cm. They’re brown, and sometimes they have gorgeous stripes in different brown and olive tones which makes them look a little bit like a lolly.
00:01:02 The high-pitched groups of calls that start softer and build in intensity are brown tree frogs. The frequencies really can hurt the human ear. These are a smallish brown frog that can live in drier parts of the bush. They don’t need to be right in the water all the time.
00:18:22 This is a set of sonar searching calls of a freetail bat. There are few microbats whose calls sit within the range of human hearing, and your ability to hear this will depend on your age and how well you’ve looked after your hearing.
00:25:20 This is the growling barky cough of the brushtail possum. With this call it is communicating its territory to the other possums in the vicinity.
00:30:10 The possum comes very, very close to the microphone and you can also hear lambs calling in the distant farmland.
00:46:10 There is something softly creeping here. Probably not the brushtails which tend to stampede everywhere they go. You can just hear the very, very quiet clicks of branches moving every once in a while, over the coming minutes.
00:50:20 More bat sounds. It is clicking and listening to the bounce back echoes to determine where its prey might be.
01:02:30 The brushtail is back.
Lyrebird songs in a Gippsland rainforest
No music, no voices, just the sound of the forest waking up. I made this recording on a wintery morning, outside a hut high up in the mountains of Gippsland on Gunaikurnai land. I arrived in the dark and didn’t realise how high up the hill I was. As the sun rose it took time for it to reach the bottom of the gullies, and so the dawn chorus extended longer and was more distant and echoey. It’s harder than normal to decipher what’s what in this recording because all around the hut there were lyrebirds singing, and they’re masters of imitation.
Listening notes from Ann Jones:
00:00:00 As the sun rises and warms the roof, icy water drips to the ground creating clicks and drips throughout. Immediately, several lyrebird males can be heard rehearsing their songs. This isn’t normally the time of day that they’d be wooing a female directly, it’s more for practice and territorial defence, and also perhaps luring a female towards their dancing mound. They call like this throughout the coldest part of winter.
00:02:06 Rather than an actual whipbird, I think that this is the lyrebird imitating a whip bird!
00:03:00 I think the interminable piping is from a white-throated tree creeper.
00:05:00 It is possibly a striated thornbill group twittering close to the microphone, but certainly one of the ‘LBJ’ class. (That is what birders call ‘Little Brown Jobs’ – birds that are all small and brown and difficult to identify.)
00:08:18 A wattlebird chucks.
00:25:30 These are rosella sounds I think, the chattering that keeps them in contact as they move.
00:30:39 Is it a kookaburra or a lyrebird imitating a kookaburra? I think the latter as it cuts off rather awkwardly – kookaburras often wind down at the end of their calls in a very funny moany-giggle.
00:32:22 Here the lyrebird imitates, briefly, a black cockie within its stream of song. Other calls it imitates include grey shrikethrush, currawongs, magpies and wattlebirds.
01:08:30 Actual yellow-tailed black cockatoos! There’s a story that they travel before rain but I’m not sure if anyone has done the science on that one. These are big cockies, much bigger than a sulphur crested. They have yellow patches under the tale and fly with long wing strokes somewhat like a waterbird. Absolutely majestic and you are obliged to stop and point to them when you see them.
01:13:55 A kangaroo or wallaby thumps past.
01:34:30 A small flock of gang-gang cockatoos fly past, which sound like squeaky doors. About the size of a galah they are mostly black. The males have red heads and instead of a crest like a cockie, they have a little feathery flourish on the top of their head like a centurion’s helmet. The females are mostly black with exquisite red detailing and together they call in this incredibly unique, needs-oiling croak.
Carolling magpies in Western Australia
No music, no voices, just the sound of the forest waking up. This recording was made while traveling through Whadjuk Nyoongar land, WA. The birds differ between east and west Australia. That huge swathe of arid country in between has meant that birds have evolved into different sub-species, species and variants.
Listening notes from Ann Jones:
00:00:00 Normally I would cut out my footsteps walking away from the microphone, but this audio is too beautiful. You can hear carolling magpies, as well as black cockatoos. These are either Baudin’s or Carnaby’s or both. They sometimes do hang out together. Both are endangered species.
00:04:05 An Australian ringneck parrot. This is about the size of a rosella and with a wonderful green body, a black head and a yellow neck around the nape of its head.
00:04:20 A pee-wee or mudlark calling here. They vary slightly across the continent.
00:14:50 Ringnecks are sometimes called twenty-eights in WA because that is sort of what their call sounds like – ‘twenty-eight’.
00:21:44 Here there is a very, very high-pitched tinkling of a grey fantail, along with a magpie, an Australian raven and (we think) a grey shrike-thrush. Thanks to Tegan Douglas form Birdlife Australia who helped me with these sounds!
00:24:40 If you’ve got a particularly good sound system, you might be able to pick up the rhythmic moan of the bronzewing pigeon.
00:26:39 The Australian raven is calling in the background here. It’s a big black bird with a funny beard that pops out, making its neck look really chunky.
00:28:20 Here comes a grey currawong with its chiming call echoing through the bushland. These are handsome, large birds. Maybe something that looks halfway between a magpie and a raven. Grey currawongs are mostly grey in different hues, but with white tips on the wings and tail. They walk and hop on the ground to forage for insects but are strong fliers and happily scale trees, ripping off bark to look for insects and raiding fruit trees.
00:43:00 Western gerygone (pronounced jerr-i-go-nee) is a sweet little hazel eyed greyish bird with an adorable little tail and a sweet little two note, three syllable call. They spend their lives inside bushes and within the branches of trees, frustrating bird watchers. They occasionally flutter out to catch an insect on the wind. They build a nest that hangs off a twig and is wrapped in spiders’ web.
00:44:14 Probably a yellow-plumed honeyeater making those whistling calls with a red wattlebird making ‘chucks’, along with Australian raven moans and common bronzewing droning on in the background.
Thanks to Adrian Boyle, Tegan Douglas, Erika Roper and Nigel Jackett for helping ID some of the sounds. I had no hope.
Gentle rain on a tin roof in the outback
No music, no voices, just the sound of a spring shower hitting a corrugated iron roof. This recording was made on Wadawurrung Country, in west Victoria, Australia.
Listening notes from Ann Jones:
00:02:00 Wind in the trees, and grey currawongs calling to each other in chiming duets.
00:06:00 Galahs fly past, their nesting hollow is close by.
00:07:41 I think this could be brown thornbills, tiny little birds. But would you believe, they’re actually sort of chunky for thornbills, at about seven grams. Thornbills are super tricky to identify because they’re all tiny and brown. And on top of that, sometimes they like to hang out altogether in a big mixed flock feeding.
00:18:40 As a rain shower ends the birds still come out singing.
00:27:00 An eastern common froglet calling at the dam in the distance.
01:04:24 A superb fairy-wren comes and goes calling all the while.