The Art of Listening to the Sounds of Nature

Train your brain to listen to the sounds of nature, and you’ll discover a whole new world. With these relaxation tips, you can learn to quiet internal noise and truly hear the nature sounds around you.

| April/May 2008

  • Red Squirrel
    Red squirrels can be chatterboxes as they play. They’re also known to scold each other (and humans!) with a chrrr sound.
    Photo by Bill Lea
  • Woodpecker
    The rapid drumming of the pileated woodpecker can be heard throughout much of the United States and Canada. Its call is a loud cuk-cuk-cuk, which rises and falls in pitch and volume.
    Photo by Bill Beatty
  • Great Horned Owl
    The distinctive mating calls of the great horned owl can be heard from December through February.
    Photo by Dwight Kuhn
  • Bull Elk
    The ghostly squeaks of the bull elk are eerie sounds, especially when you hear them at night.
    Photo by Janet Horton
  • Groundhog
    Known as the whistle pig, the groundhog puts out a surprisingly sharp sound when alarmed.
    Photo by Bill Beatty
  • Canada Goose
    The familiar wonk, wonk of the Canada goose is a sure sign that autumn has arrived.
    Photo by Richard Day/Daybreak Imagery
  • Scarlet Tanager
    Listen for the summer sound (CHICK-bree) of the scarlet tanager and hopefully you’ll be able to spot the brightly colored bird as well.
    Photo by Maslowski Productions
  • Wood Thrush
    The pretty call of the wood thrush can be heard at dawn and dusk in spring throughout the eastern half of the United States.
    Photo by Maslowski Productions
  • Tufted Titmouse
    The tufted titmouse is one of the more vocal birds in winter throughout suburban yards in the Midwest and eastern United States.
    Photo courtesy TomVezo.com
  • Treefrog
    A pond full of spring peepers can sound like bells jingling.
    Photo by Dwight Kuhn
  • True Katydid
    The katydid’s rhythmic call starts in late summer and picks up as fall arrives.
    Photo by Bill Beatty
  • Snowy Tree Cricket
    Hear a snowy tree cricket and you can calculate the temperature. Count the number of chirps in 15 seconds and add 40 to determine the temperature in Fahrenheit.
    Photo by Joe McDonald/Animals Animals
  • Coyote
    The coyote intermingles yips and yaps among its high-pitched howls.
    Photo courtesy Maslowski Productions

  • Red Squirrel
  • Woodpecker
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Bull Elk
  • Groundhog
  • Canada Goose
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Wood Thrush
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Treefrog
  • True Katydid
  • Snowy Tree Cricket
  • Coyote

It’s true that we humans tend not to see the forest for the trees. To an even greater extent when we’re outdoors, though, we fail to hear the forest for the seeing. We let our eyes be our guides when sounds of nature, not sights, often provide more information about the life around us, most of it hidden or too distant to see.

The rush of shifting wind through treetops. The gurgle of stream water tumbling over stone. The hmmmm and bzzzzz of insects. The piercing call of a faraway bird. These are only a few of the sounds of nature. Some are constant; others fleeting. But all are components in a symphony that is not merely unfinished but perpetual, playing night and day. It is a work ever-in-progress worth listening to, carefully. Nature sounds not only soothe our civilized souls, but also tell tales of their makers’ lives.

Hush Up and Listen to Nature

You’re not likely to hear — or for that matter, see — wildlife unless you force yourself to take time out from whatever you’re doing outdoors and just sit still, for cryin’ out loud. All too often when I am outdoors the most dominant sound in my ears is the clump-clump-clumping or crunch-crunch-crunching of my own rambling feet. The sad truth is, we humans are a noisy, restless lot. What do most of us do in the great outdoors? We hike, we bike, we fish, we camp, we canoe, we rock climb, we move — almost constantly, and seldom silently. Most of us also carry another kind of noise into the woods with us from civilization: that infernal inner voice nagging us with everyday worries and jangled nerves.

All of that has to go. Remaining still and quiet and actually paying attention to audible nature is an ear-opening experience. But it’s not one that comes to us easily. And here’s the hardest part: You can’t just stop, listen to nature sounds for a few moments and then move on. You have to give the process time — time for you and your gotta-move human nature to settle down and truly tune in to sound, and time for the creatures around you to recover from the alarming cacophonous crashing of your arrival.



Try this the next time you’re outdoors: Look around for a tree with a base sufficiently wide to serve as a back rest and enough level ground beneath to serve as a seat. Make a comfortable cushion of leaves, pine needles or an old shirt, and sit down. Now relax. Never mind listening or watching for anything; just let your muscles go limp. Take easy, deep breaths. Focus entirely on the in and out of your breathing. Don’t let restlessness or thoughts of other matters creep back into your consciousness; stay relaxed and breathe slow and easy. Shhhh. Breathe easy. Relax. Stay still.

The technique may take several minutes (and several tries), but eventually that internal noise of yours will quiet down, and if you remain still the wildlife around you will forgive and forget your crashing. Soon enough the sounds of nature will return. And soon too you will begin to notice the “notes” of individual players in the symphony: a skitter in a treetop; a chick-chick of tiny teeth gnawing on nut or bark; a tap-tap-tap of pointed beak on wood. Let your ears do the locating, then see if your eyes can zero in on the source. Most wildlife is much harder to see than to hear, by virtue of camouflage coloration and patterning, not to mention instinctive adeptness at concealment — a key to survival.

genojay
10/17/2017 10:46:46 PM

Would have been nice if there were links two sounds Earth sounds for when I'm unable to sit outside and listen to outside noises







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