Nature in a human crisis pt.1

For some of us its only just beginning, for others its already been months. Just a glance at this post’s date and I doubt anyone will ever have to question what I am referencing. As COVID-19 makes its way across the face-mask of the earth, whole civilisations slow to a crawl. From my home in London, I’ve watched the unassailable, unstoppable machine grind down through its gears, as if someone in some top-secret bunker had just activated sleep-mode.

Like many of us, I have experienced a spectrum of emotions. It started with surreal unease, as I watched central London hollow out, quickly moving to straight-up panic when I discovered all the loo-roll was gone, and ending with some relatively stable, knuckling-down type feelings.

As I listen to understand the world around me, I found the sudden ‘silence’ to be a most unsettling sensation. Both public and private transport are dramatically down, and the near-constant flightpaths crisscrossing London now contain only the occasional air cargo landing. A sonic staple of big city life is the ever present throb of energy. I’m sure that its absence only added to the initial anxiety of many Londoners.

However as London enjoys what could be its quietest moments in a generation, new soundscapes find the space to be heard. Walking the streets, It feels as though a sonic weight has been lifted and the city has been allowed to breathe.

I want to dedicate a few blog posts to exploring our new temporary sonic landscapes and what they mean to me.

Birdsong in East Sussex

Sensing the impending UK lockdown, I took the opportunity to head south to the countryside on that sunny March weekend, to capture dawn and dusk choruses. I chose Brede High Woods in East Sussex as a location, due to its ancient, largely untouched woodland, its wildlife, and its distance from major roads. Normally this location would be off the cards, due to near-constant flights arriving to and from any one of London’s six airports.

I set my DPA 4060 blimp down close to the edge of the reservoir, and ran a 20m stereo cable back to my Mixpre 6. I recorded in 96kHz, 24bit. The recordings are available as MP3s for listening here. I will also add a longer version of the dawn chorus to my downloads page.

Dusk Chorus

Dawn Chorus

Whilst the dusk chorus was still regularly disturbed by weekend motorbike riders on the nearest road, the dawn chorus went almost completely uninterrupted – something that would have been previously been unimaginable for a very long time in this part of the country. With this time of year being crucial to many animals’ mating cycles, it will be very interesting to see what progress ecologists can make on studying the impact of noise pollution on our wildlife.

These recordings are dedicated to Carole Chant; a brilliant musician, sound artist and field recordist. Having contracted COVID-19, Carole sadly passed away the day before these recordings were captured.


  1. A lovely blog. I have just started following it as I came across you from a link on soundcloud.

    Best Wishes

    Tony Powell and naturestimeline

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