lördag 8 april 2017

Field recording session: Recording 15000 Cranes

Spring time has arrived and with it so does the wildlife and more importantly it creates opportunities for field recordings. In the end of March and the beginning of April every year thousands of Cranes arrive at the end of a small lake in the middle of Sweden, lake Hornborga. The Cranes main purpose is to rest, eat and dance, before heading to their breeding grounds up north.

Since I moved to the south parts of Sweden for about 5 years ago I always wanted to travel to this location and record the sounds of this event. However schedule issues have interfered previous years. So I decided that this year was the year!!

The obsession started back at the 12th of March, when the first statistics started showing up. 102 Cranes counted for. Then the count increased, 13th March – 570, 14th March – 615, 15th March – 830. At the 22nd of March the count was up to 9780, then I decided to plan the trip to the next coming week. I extrapolated roughly that the count would be up to around to 11000 Cranes at the middle of that week. The more Cranes more sound was my initial strategic plan.

Tuesday the 28th of March I packed my car and started the 2 hour and 40 minutes drive to Lake Hornborga. Weather forecast: large amount of mist, 3 m/s winds and approx. 9-10° C and last nights Crane statistics 15800 Cranes.

Arrived at the lake at 09:00 and....Holy flying objects Batman!....Cranes everywhere and the sound was... prehistoric...yeah prehistoric is the closest word I can find too describe it. Let me put it this way the wait was worth it.

So for recording at a new location comes with both positives and negatives. So lets talk about the surrounding soundscape. Firstly: the location where the Cranes land and rests is very close to a highly trafficked highway with almost none natural obstacles for absorption of the traffic sounds. Secondly: The event is very popular amongst bird-watchers and bird-enthusiast. Both of which were very cumbersome to avoid. After about 30 – 35 min of walking and trying different spots I managed to find a location with some shielding from the traffic noise and only a few bystanders passing by, 2 or 3 persons every other 5 min. This spot was also, and more importantly, at close range to the Cranes, roughly 20 - 40 m. So I ended up setting up the gear beside a walkway between the parking lot and the main viewing area. Recording location: https://goo.gl/maps/MFMVREeApsK2

The gear used during the recording was essentially my basic field recording setup, consisting of:
  • Matching pair of RØDE NT5s connected to my H6 in ORTF configuration
  • SONY PCM-D100 in AB configuration
  • Sennheiser HD280
Placed the systems about 2 m next to each other.
When reviewing the recordings back home my suspicions got confirmed. A lot of the recordings contained traffic noise and voices from bystanders. So a large amount of post processing and editing had to be done in order to make the recordings usable.

So what did I learn?
Next time recording at this location a shotgun microphone or even a parabolic dish microphone are needed to avoid unwanted sounds. I would most certainly arrive a day before and do the recordings at dawn to avoid noise from traffic. Next I might even rent of the bird-watcher hideouts to get really close. But sitting in a hideout with the dimensions of 2x2,5 m from 0430 until 2100 with 15000 Cranes outside screaming seems a bit extreme... or would it?
So if you have the chance do stop by Lake Hornborga its quite the experience.

Here are some useful links:
Lake Hornborga location:

Information and main viewing area:

Crane Statistics:

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