Great Bustards – live!

So after having a bit of a nightmare trying to book my planned visit down to Salisbury, it’s set up for next week, Lynne at the Great Bustard centre was really helpful, but apparently the enquiries email for them doesn’t go through to her it goes to Dave who is out of the country quite a lot, so my visit is a week late, sorry Suzie, no tutorial for me this week. But I figured gathering real live research on my chosen subject was better than not having anything to show…

I need to have this evidence in the background for my project, it’s absolutely imperative to have first hand photos and video and sound and to have been to the site where the reintroduction was chosen to most closely replicate their favoured habitat. It will give me understanding and more of a connection in a way nothing else will.

This puts a lot of pressure onto the visit though, I get a time slot of 2pm and 90 minutes in the hide, if I can’t gather enough, it’s not feasible to pop down to Salisbury every week to try!

I have my kit in place, a Nikon D7000, 80-400mm lens, monopod (essential with such a long lens), spotting binoculars and my little H1 Zoom, plus it’s own baby tripod. I don’t know what sound I’ll gather as the hide is 300 metres away, but it will hopefully give me the habitat sound that I’m after.

Obviously I would like to get some physical recordings from the birds themselves but, not on this trip. I will speak to the guys there and explain my project to see if there is any way of gathering closer sound…




Analysing the sound

From the sound I gathered yesterday I wanted to see if my recorder – H1 Zoom – could pick up and reproduce the feeling of being in different size open spaces and I tried to record from very different spots.

At one point I was completely in a row of pines and the sound of the birds was muted and softwpid-wp-1398351324909.jpeg


listening to the sound file actually recorded without any tinkering doesn’t give the feeling of an enclosed soft outside space it just has very little sound and it’s as if the birds have been ‘turned down’ . It’s quieter overall and feels separated from the environment…


The bright vivid sound from right in amongst the wooded area has a much more lively tone and clarity and closeness of the birds.

admittedly that’s exactly where I was standing, but the sound I need for my project needs to tell of a wide space as this is the Great Bustards’ preferred habitat.

The Brecks used to be like that but the pines were planted to act as windbreaks to prevent sand and soil storms.

Measures were taken to protect the topsoil during the 19th Century, with farmers planting lines of Scots Pine trees as windbreaks to prevent sand and soil storms – a notable landscape feature in the Brecks today being the distinctive ‘pine lines’ of twisted and knotted pines that resulted from these pine hedges, which have grown wild.

A few places still exist being more heath like, like Weeting Heath.

The stone curlew is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species and is also currently on the Amber list. Numbers have risen over the past 15 years due to partnerships being created between wildlife conservation bodies and landowners to identify and protect breeding sites. The stone curlew is also afforded special protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the EU Birds Directive. Areas where stone curlews are found are designated as Environmentally Sensitive Areas. A key conservation management system at the NWT Weeting Heath reserve is maintaining a healthy population of rabbits. These grazers keep vegetation shorter than 2cm to provide a suitable habitat for nesting stone curlews. link to website

I will look into visiting Weeting and seeing what a wide open space sounds like, will it be an absence of sound…or will it be something else, I can’t quite imagine it, the differences are so subtle that our ears and physical senses come into play with associating sound and place and space. This will need to be very much considered for my exhibition/installation.


Bird Sound – Santon Downham

For my installation I want to envelop the visitor in the sound of the outdoors, to make them feel as though they are really there in the Great Bustard’s environment. Originally they lived in the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecks before becoming extinct.


Label reads: Great Bustard, Otis tarda: These birds were once numerous in the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecks, but became extinct as a British breeding species in 1832. Unsuccessful attempts at reintroduction have been made, and the species today is a very rare vagrant to Britain. (this label is used in the Great Bustard display in the Norwich Castle Museum)

 So I started my search for  ‘the Brecks’ and discovered they are centred in and around Thetford…

The Brecks spans 392 sq. miles/1015 sq. kilometres across Norfolk and Suffolk in the heart of The East of England – one of the driest parts of Britain, a landscape of tranquil forest, open heathland and agricultural land, is home to many unique or distinctive birds, plants and animals.

I continued searching and found these great walks on the council website,

in and around Thetford, reading through them, I chose the Santon Downham long walk as this seemed to pass through a wide variety of environments.

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I stopped at many of the places in the above photos, unfortunately the walk follows alongside the trainline at points and it did interrupt some of my sound recordings.

Also you might note a mysterious low rumble, I’m afraid I was hungry and my little H1 Zoom recorded it!

Listening to the different open spaces, against the bird heavy wood spaces was something I hadn’t thought about, we obviously don’t normally analyse the sound of the space, but it was evident in what I was hearing but could my little recorder capture it?