Walka Lake is situated on the edge of the rural city of Maitland. A reservoir surrounded by parks and bushland, it is a haven for waterfowl and native birdlife, and this recording takes us through a day by its shoreline.
Throughout the night, a community of tiny Crinia froglets have been chorusing from reedbeds surrounding the lake. As the first light of dawn enters the sky, a pair of Black Swans bugle gently as they float on the still waters, the wings of waterfowl whistle overhead, and the calls of ducks echo off the treeline.
From surrounding bushland, the dawn chorus begins with kookaburras, magpies, honeyeaters, whistlers, robins and spinebills. As the morning warms up, flocks of silvereyes and yellow thornbills move through the tree canopy, while fantails flutter acrobatically and fairy-wrens trill from the undergrowth.
Meanwhile, coots dabbling near the shore occasionally erupt in an agitation of splashing and explosive calls. Ravens, lorikeets, galahs and black cockatoos can be heard occasionally as they wing over the lake, and a grey shrike thrush gives a virtuosic display of subsong nearby.
By late morning, a breeze has sprung up, stirring the foliage of the casuarinas lining the shore. At this point, we take a midday break, and listen instead to the life under the waters of the lake itself, a secret soundscape of tiny aquatic insects.
We return in the late afternoon, as birds give their last calls of the day. A white-faced heron calls wheezily as it flaps past, and as the light fades, the crinia froglets begin their nocturnal chorus. With dusk, everything settles down, except the coots, which indulge in a last flurry of commotion out on the still waters.
"This recording was made as a commission from Maitland City Council. Their project, focused around an app, utilises audio to educate about the site to visitors and local residents, and communicate its natural values. As a nature sound person, I'm encouraged when projects like this are initiated by people who can appreciate how evocative sound and listening can be.
"I had four days in which to work, and utilising three recording rigs, collected recordings from different locations around the lakeshore, both throughout the night and day. My focus was to both highlight the healthy community of bush birds that has resulted from revegetation works, and at the same time, capture the activity of waterfowl on the lake itself. I also employed a pair of hydrophones to gather recordings of aquatic insects from below the water.
"Being close to Maitland city, and with a rail line passing by the perimeter, the drift of urban noise was an issue. However by using the topography of the site when placing my microphones, and with favourable weather, I ended up with many hours of material. With selective editing and careful processing in the studio, I'm very pleased with the results."
The wetlands are refuge for a diversity of both waterbirds and bush birds. This recording was made on the shoreline of Walka Lake, so you're hearing a balance of waterfowl and bushland species. Which include:
Crinia signifera (Common Eastern Froglet) - Chorusing overnight from reedbeds (0.00 on), growing silent as dawn proceeds.
Black Swans - Deep and expressive honking (1.46, and during the day 75.59, and again softly at night 152.39... )
Australian Wood Ducks - Sound of wings as a group fly overhead (2.11...), single rising "waaa" from a male (3.57). Later female chattering (151.58... ) and male closer (155.24)
Pacific Black Duck - Series of loud "quack"s while on the water (2.51, 3.38, 3.57, 4.09, 5.12. 151.21)
Coots - Occasional bursts of loud and explosive calls, heard throughout the night and day (3.28...), including "Yip!" (4.29) and "Chak!" (4.53) and sometimes accompanied by chasing across the water (61.42) and later, quite a collective commotion (145.35...)
First Light and the Dawn Chorus:
Australian Magpie - Caroling (6.38... one sings from the ground very close by 137.28, pre-dusk calls 138.59... )
Laughing Kookaburras - (6.38)
European Blackbird - Heard singing softly and melodically during the dawn chorus (8.55...)
Eastern Spinebill - Variety of sharp piping calls (first heard 9.03, and occasionally throughout. Later, two fly past piping 130.20... 132,19)
Yellow-faced Honeyeater - Also heard throughout this recording, a strong, distinctive "Chick-up, chick-up, chick-up" or "Whit-up, Whit-up, Whit-up" (first heard 9.06, an individual closer 14.51...), plus the single downslurred notes characteristic of honeyeaters (39.13, 39.57...)
Red Wattlebird - Loud, harsh syllables (first heard 9.46, easier to pick out 57.03 and 64.59... )
Australian Raven - Rich but slightly nasal-toned corvid calls, often concluding with longer, mournful, descending, quavering note (16.41). On this recording most often heard calling in flight.
Superb Fairy-wrens - High-pitched trilling reels, given by both male and females (... 17.00...28.12... close 67.11)
Silvereyes - Pleasant trilling calls (group wake up and take wing 22.57), and quick, downslurred notes (... 24.37... closer at 35.12... )
Golden Whistler - Strong, silvery song phrases, concluding with 'whipcrack' notes (26.05, 45.18)
Magpie Lark - Common urban bird with strong calls, often male and female in duet (27.12, 34.06)
Spotted Pardalote - Contact notes on one pitch, "nee-dee-dee-dee" (27.23), or quick, repeated "pee-pee" (90.30...)
Grey Fantail - Erratic, 'sneezy' notes (27.58...), building to ascending jumble of silvery notes (28.59, closer 29.56)
White-naped Honeyeaters - Descending whistles (33.39... 95.33... ) and 'slurpy' notes (33.45)
White-browed Scrubwren - A diversity of quick trills (36.35, closer 56.43, 57.09, 58.42)
White-throated Treecreeper - Very steady, sometimes monotonous piping on one pitch (in background 37.59)
Pied Butcherbird - Clear tonal song phrases, very tuneful (only heard way off in background ... 42.15...)
Yellow Thornbills - Flocks pass by on several occasions giving almost continual soft twittering contact calls with a buzzy texture (46.42... 94.57... ). Flocks often mixed with Silvereyes and Fantails.
Eastern Yellow Robin - Percussive and repeated phrases of "Chap! Chap! Chap!" (... 50.35...)
Galahs - Group fly past, calling on the wing (52.12...)
Reed Warbler - (Not sure of this identification, as it is not the bird's breeding call, but may be contact calls as it skulks in reedbeds) hard, single "Chat!", given irregularly (53.26... )
Masked Plover - Loud disturbance calls given in flight (57.41)
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - Harsh and loud screeches (here way off in distance 58.33)
Rainbow Lorikeets - Full-bodied lorikeet screeching, usually heard here when birds are moving around (58.57)
Late Morning, with wind stirring the casuarina trees:
Grey Shrike Thrush - Strong, two-note calls "Pee-ew!" (69.09...) which on this occasion, eventually morph into a wonderful display of varied, melodic song (73.56... ). This may possibly be subsong, which is often regarded as improvised practice singing by juvenile birds.
Spotted Turtledove - Repeated soft and slightly burred phrase (beginning 80.23... two birds from 83.48, then closer 98.37...)
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike - Unusual downslurred and rippling calls (85.48... coming closer by 87.18... )
Fuscous Honeyeater - Pleasant and quite unique calls "ch-arig, ch-ch-arig" (88.45...), plus their own variation on characteristic honeyeater "pew"s (93.17)
Crimson Rosellas - A pair (at least) fly in chattering (92.26... ), eventually flying off with audible wingbeats (93.40)
Noisy Miners - Agitated chatter (in background 95.00.... )
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo - A single individual flies overhead, calling (105.06 - 105.38)
Midday: Aquatic insects, possibly including water boatmen and skimmers (107.05 - 124.24)
Late afternoon into dusk and evening (many of the same species as morning, with the addition of):
Grey Butcherbird - rapid-fire 'yappy-textured' calls (67.07... 141.39... )
White-faced Heron - wheezy 'grunts' as one flies past (134.23, 135.40, 138.08)
Walka Lake is a man-made reservoir, constructed in the 1880s to supply safe drinking water to the lower Hunter Valley. Although the associated Water Works buildings were decommissioned in the late 1920s, the lake has remained a refuge for waterfowl ever since.
More recently, the Maitland City Council has embarked on extensive restoration of the surrounding bushland, removing weeds and replanting with native trees and shrubs, with inspiring results.
When visitors come to the lake today, they find a picturesque location which is home to the diversity of waterfowl and birdlife heard on this recording.