Photo courtesy of Richard Nelson.
Breakfast on the beach at 3:30 a.m. High gray clouds, calm silver sea. My recording partner, Richard Nelson, and I stashed the electronics in the kayaks and were on the water by 4 a.m. We wished each other good luck and paddled in separate directions to chase the morning’s sounds. I drifted through a group of harbor seals, recording a few gruff growls, marbled murrelets whistling in the background.
On shore, I set up the mics along a little stream, the songs from a grey-cheeked thrush and a yellow warbler mixing with the bubbling pop of the creek. On the paddle back to camp, a porpoise rolled past my bow, the sharp quick puff of breath loud in the headphones.
It was a great morning of recording by any measure—but nothing like the sounds that had filled Nels’s ears. Over second breakfast, a mid-morning breeze tickling the sea, Nels tells the story of a wolf right there in the beach grass, unconcerned with his nearby kayak. The wolf glanced casually at the boat, turned around once, lay down, lifted its snout to the sky and cut loose. That close to a howling wolf, it takes great concentration to keep your excitement from rattling the hand-held microphone. But Nels pulled it off. Here’s a piece of that magical morning.
Thanks to the wolf (and Nels) for sharing. Check out more of Nels’s recordings here.
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.