Soundscape: relax to the sounds of British wildlife

As the coronavirus crisis and lockdown still thwart most of our social plans, many of us are looking to escape feelings of cabin fever and the perennial cycle of bad news by reconnecting with nature.

Perhaps you are taking more notice of your natural surroundings these days, or you have seen animals move into the spaces that humans have vacated.

But what if you could enjoy some of that natural beauty from the safety of your home?

Our interactive experience takes you on a journey through a lush forest in spring and lets you listen to the sounds of iconic British wildlife. The samples were collected by prolific wildlife recordist Lawrence Shove in the 1960s and 1970s and provided to the Guardian by the British Library.

This interactive is best experienced with your sound on.

mobile-forestsoundscape-forest-desktop-FINAL

Dawn

As we wake up to an early start around sunrise, many birds are already up and singing at full throat to stake off their territory and attract potential mates.

The nightingale likes to hide in thick brush when delivering its powerful song. It can be heard between April and June and is most active at dawn and dusk.

The robin is a pugnacious little bird that will try to maintain its territory throughout the year.

Fallow deer often stalk the forest at dawn before lying down to ruminate during the day. They give off powerful bellows to establish dominance or signal alarm.

Noon

Around midday, the forest gets quieter as birds and other small animals are cautious not to attract the attention of predators. But not all animals fall silent …

The woodpecker‘s distinctive drumming can often be heard during the day. The woodpecker uses its drumming like other birds use their song: to attract mates, defend a territory or summon help.

The great tit is known for its vast repertoire of short calls.

The grey squirrel spends much of the day scavenging for nuts, fruit and fungi. It will give off loud alarm calls when spotting a predator.

Dusk

As the sun goes down, more animals can be heard stirring in the undergrowth again.

The red fox is an extremely adaptive species not afraid of exploring gardens or farmland. Its diet includes rodents, insects, fruit and vegetables – and sometimes scraps found in the garbage.

The elusive pine marten is a close relative of the weasel and critically endangered in England and Wales. It is a stealthy, acrobatic hunter that likes to venture out at dusk.

The mole is active for about four hours at a time and then rests for a similar amount of time. It makes shrill chirping noises when alarmed.

Night

Many animals awake only after nightfall to move or hunt under cover of darkness.

The badger emerges from its underground home after dusk to feed on worms, birds’ eggs or small animals. It is a highly social animal and communicates through chortling sounds.

The tawny owl glides almost soundlessly through the night as it looks for prey. The male gives off an eerie hoot when attempting to court a nearby female.

Finally, we hear a hedgehog snuffling as it moves through the undergrowth. The hedgehog can also become surprisingly noisy during its lengthy mating ritual.

If you enjoyed this interactive, you might find that some of these animals live right on your doorstep.

If you decide to exercise outdoors, remember that the government’s coronavirus advice is to stay at home as much as possible. The Welsh and Scottish governments are urging the public to avoid all unnecessary travel. National park authorities in England are telling people not to rush back to beauty spots.

Design and illustration

Frank Hulley-Jones

Motion graphics

Simon Roberts

Sound engineering

Pascal Wyse

Development

Garry Blight

Concept and writing

Niko Kommenda

Thanks to the British Library for providing samples from the British Wildlife Recordings collection under a CC-BY license. Background loops were recorded by Pascal Wyse.

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