The elusive Buff-spotted Flufftail --- Our pristine recording site among the forested dunes of St. Lucia on the Indian Ocean --- A Black-collared Barbet

Excerpts from "Soundscape #1, St. Lucia, South Africa, 4:15 a.m."


1) Darkness   2) Owl Cadenza   3) Flufftail & Whistlers    4) Goshawk Attack 
5) Nicator Solo   6) Chorister Robin-Chat   7)
Rain Crescendo
(mp3 downloads--Copyright Andrew Lamy & Edie Hill, 2007 All Rights Reserved)

Program Notes on Saint Lucia, 4:15 a.m.
By Andrew Lamy and Edie Hill

It is December 21st, 2006, the longest day of the year on the overgrown sand-dunes of Saint Lucia, South Africa.  Here, in the triple-canopy broadleaf rainforest on the coast of the Indian Ocean, the sun rises today at 4:19 a.m.  In order to capture a surround-sound recording the coming “dawn chorus” of birdsong, our party must be up and in position by 3:45 a.m.  Fortunately, African Wood-Owls sound off noisily in our camp before we can oversleep our alarms.  Then, beginning at 4:15 a.m., the drama of sounds unfurls around us. 

1) DarknessWe hear the mesmerizing tonking and squeaking sounds of bats, the gentle churring of crickets, and the territorial challenges of the wood-owls, delivered in rhythmic bursts of hollow whistles.
2) Owl Cadenza – The musicians join in the territorial squabble of the owls and spin threads of rhetoric before settling back into silence.
3) Flufftail & Whistlers – As dawn breaks, we hear Red-capped Robin-Chat, Terrestrial Brownbul, and Olive Sunbird.  The careful listener can also hear the soft, deep, haunting whistle of the elusive Buff-spotted Flufftail—a secretive bird that we heard several times, but never saw.  
4) Goshawk Attack – The lyrical banter in the first light of day is soon interrupted by the sudden arrival of a predator.  A Pale Chanting Goshawk swoops into a nearby flock of Blue Waxbills as they feed on the ground. Narrowly escaping the surprise attack by flying to cover, the smaller birds begin to band together to scold and menace the hungry raptor.  Soon the goshawk is driven off—at least for now… 
5) Nicator Solo – And now comes an extraordinary sound from the dense cover—the voice of the Yellow-spotted Nicator.  This bird creates a twisted bubbling sound that spirals up and down with the timbre of water dripping in a deep well.  We search and search, but the bird seems to be taunting us from the thick cluster of fig leaves and palm fronds above our heads.  He never reveals himself to us—but we know Nicators are famous for this. 
6) Chorister Robin-Chat – And now the much-anticipated Chorister Robin Chat lives up to his name.  Even as thunder rumbles in the distance, the voice of this remarkable singer rings out like a bell--After three clear introductory notes, there is a rapidly descending cascade of diminished notes.  Before long, other Choristers answer in various keys, creating a textural crescendo.
7) Rain Crescendo -- The distant thunder approaches, keeping its promise, and the rain begins to fall.  As the intensity of the mounting storm peaks, we are able to continue recording for only a few more minutes, capturing some dramatic thunder claps from under thick vine-tangles—eventually we are too soaked to continue…

Some Featured Soloists:
Epauletted fruit Bat -- Tonking at beginning
African Wood Owl -- A 6-note emphatic "whooping" phrase
Livingstone's Turaco -- Loud choruses of rhythmic, growling "jungle" noises
Olive Sunbird -- A clear, sweet, high-pitched staccato whistle, often in a slowly descending chromatic scale
Buff-spotted Flufftail -- A soft, low, hollow whistle that rises and falls
Yellow-spotted Nicator -- An amazing bubbling sound that undulates with both the articulation of a washboard and the reverberation of a deep well
Grey-backed Camaroptera -- Rhythmic double-ticks like stones clacking together
Chorister Robin-Chat -- Numerous layers of clearly whistled musical themes and tuneful fragments

Musicians: Gary Kirkpatrick -- Piano;  Brett Deubner -- Viola;  Joanna Farrer -- Violin;  Louise Dubin -- Cello, Veronica Alcuri -- Sound Effects; Trent Johnson -- Sound Effects;  Andrew Lamy -- Clarinet & Sound Effects -- Darryl Kubian, Surround Effects & Audio Mastering

Background Sounds: Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Red-naped Robin-Chat, Terrestrial Brownbul, Blue Waxbill,
Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Arrow-marked Babbler, Black-collared Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Spotted Thick-Knee, Burchell's Coucal, Crowned Hornbill, Hadada Ibis, Green Malkoha, Common Waxbill, Collared Sunbird, waves of Indian Ocean, crickets & cicadas, rain & thunder.

African Wood Owls -- Sonogram of African Wood Owl "Whooping" -- Yellow-winged Bat
for availability & bookings, contact
Birgit Schmid-Salm at: