Our mornings begin early – 4am early!

We are ready to go by 4.20am and meet up with Twomey (pronounced Too-mee), our local guide and companion while on Tetepare island. We walk one and a half kilometres along the shoreline, passing small estuaries, swamps, mangroves and limestone outcrops, before heading into the rainforest.

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We have just returned from 23 days walking the Larapinta Trail, which snakes its way for 223km – up ridge and down gorge – through the Macdonnell Ranges in arid central Australia.

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After 30 days of driving on Tanzanian roads our bodies (and gear) were feeling battered, bruised and we seemed to have as much dust on the inside of the Land Rover as on the road surface! Nevertheless, we felt some anticipation at the prospect of going to Ruaha National Park, a little visited national park 100kms west of Iringa.

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With this post I’d like to take you through our new recording ‘Safari’ track by track – sharing how we made the recording and give you an insight into what you’re hearing.

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The African landscape is dominated by big animals; wildebeest, zebra, elephant, lions – the animals people come from all over the world to see.

For me as a nature sound recordist, they posed both an opportunity and a huge problem. How was I going to record them? How could I record anything else with them lurking around?

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Common Hoopoe

The unmistakable profile of a Common Hoopoe. I love these birds, with their distinctive thin bill and counterbalancing crest. I think they have evolved just to delight me! (Mind you, I could say that about most critters)

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Coppersmith Barbet

Coppersmith Barbet feasts on figs. I am so delighted to share this photo. I have always been hoping for a good shot of this bird. Firstly, they are little jewels, secondly they are quite common and vocal, so they’re heard on many of our Indian albums. This image comes from our walk today, when we came across a tree in the grounds of a temple with about a dozen Barbets gorging on the fruit.

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During our recent trip to India, I uploaded a collection of images of India’s songbirds. I posted a picture a day to our Listening Earth Facebook page for three weeks, and here I’m archiving them all in one place.

Here we go! – week 1.

Plain Prinias

Three Plain Prinias cuddle up in the morning sunlight.

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Indian Vulture

Among the mogul ruins of the ancient Indian town of Orchha, are the huge Raja and Jahangir Mahals, the Chaturbhuj Temple and a collection of impressive chhatris (cenotaphs) on the banks of the River Betwa.

Atop the rooftops of these decaying buildings roost a colony of Indian Vultures. They are huge birds, but we didn’t notice them at first as they blend into the baroque ornament of the spires and parapets. However when they spread their wings and take to the air, they cast shadows on the ground, and looking up… well, they are magnificent. When they alight again, they look so much a part of the roofline – medieval gargoyles, stern against the sky.

Sadly, Indian Vultures have suffered huge population declines – around 98% – in recent years, due to the widespread use of a cattle drug which persists in carcasses and causes kidney failure in vultures. The Govt has banned the drug as of 2010, but it is still being used and it will take a while before it is replaced. And many more years before populations of this long-lived bird may recover.

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We’re currently in Orchha, and our hotel is part of a mogul palace. A few nights ago, just on dusk, Sarah and I heard the sharp screeching of these owls high up under a massive stone gateway. It seemed their regular roost, and I made a mental note to come down around 6pm and see if I could photograph them.

Barn Owls

Family of Barn Owls just after dusk – adult on the right, the curious ones are the youngsters!

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