Sounds from Alaska: Waiting for the Feast

At low water, salmon school up at stream mouths, waiting for high tide to make the one-way push into the freshwaters of their birth and death. They leap, splosh, ripple, and swirl in an undulating curtain of wet motion.

Meanwhile, up in the trees and along the river banks, the hungry talk about the coming feast: the eagles with their yodeling cackle, the ravens with their somersaulting kalumps, crows with their insistent barks, gulls with their sharp clucks, bears with their patient pacing.

Last week, I drifted by just such a stream mouth, headphones clamped tight to my ears, joyously stunned by the chaotic parade of sounds.

Give it a listen. All the wet-sounding stuff is made by the fish, a pulsing swirl of pink, chum, and sockeye salmon. The big gushing sounds off in the distance are tree-sized breaths of humpbacks lumbering just off shore. The various clamoring birds you’ll have to sort through for yourself.

Enjoy (and do yourself a huge favor and beg, steal, or borrow a pair of decent headphones).

Hank Lentfer, author of Faith of Cranes, is ear-deep in a new career recording the whistles, clicks, groans, and splashes of his wild neighbors.


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