Imagine insects scuttling in and out of sight, wildlife scurrying through the undergrowth, trees groaning and creaking, leaves rustling, birds singing and the un-heard sounds of the natural environment. All can be captured through exploration and a little patience!
The Sounds of the Undergrowth project aims to showcase the diversity of nature and habitats in The Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill through sound. In partnership with Toby Edwards, a sound recordist, we ventured across the park capturing sounds made by some of its smallest residents going about their daily pursuits.
The sounds of our immediate surroundings provide an infinite source of raw material to listen to and get creative with. The aims of this exciting new project are to introduce people to the incredible variety of sounds whilst engaging with nature, and to provide an immersive glimpse into the unfamiliar world of wildlife and invertebrate sound that often goes unheard.
Listen below to some of the insects and birds sounds captured. We encourage everyone to put on headphones to listen to these soundscapes as we begin our immersive journey into the sounds of the undergrowth.
On a warm summer's day, the sound of grasshoppers communicating with one another in the long grass is hard to miss! Did you know they produce this sound by rubbing two body parts together, their hind leg against the edge of their forewing, making a vibrating sound known as stridulation.
People have been keenly observing bird life in The Regent's Park and Primrose Hill since the middle of the 19th century. The park boasts an impressive list of around 114 species seen annually.
The Park consists of formal gardens, shrubberies, sports pitches, rough grassland, a large lake with several reed beds, enclosed wood and a canal with embankments. These areas offer food and nesting sites for many bird species, including migrants and winter visitors, such as the reed warbler. This species arrive around April time, having flown from sub-Saharan Africa, using the reed beds as a place to safely mate and raise young. We can hear the birds singing their electric melody across the reed beds.
To find out more about bird song in The Parks, listen to our podcast Episode 2: Dawn Chorus
Toby recording reed warbler
The Hidden World of Compost
Did you know invertebrates such as worms and woodlice play a vital role in creating healthy soil for us? These recyclers turn decaying material such as plants and food scraps into nutrient-rich compost that we can then use to grow food! This recording was done using a sensitive contact microphone that was placed on top of a warm compost bed. Can you hear the sounds of lots of busy invertebrates moving around?
The loud buzzing of pollinators across our meadows can be heard in this clip. From bumblebees, to hoverflies, to beetles, many insects travel from flower to flower and help pollinate. Despite their crucial roles in our ecosystem, many pollinators are sadly in decline. See how you can play your part in supporting pollinators from your garden here.
Toby recording pollinating insects
All sounds used in the following soundscapes started their life as a simple recording in the park. Some sounds have been manipulated a little, some have simply been layered with other sounds to create the immersive soundscape. The possibilities to create new audio worlds are endless and we hope that you enjoy connecting with nature in this new way.
Secrets of the woods
We venture into the woods on a stormy spring morning; above us the faint sounds of air traffic, surrounding us are the sounds of various birds, and the mysterious footfall of a woodland beast; all captivate our ears and minds. We find ourselves in a clearing, the storm subsides and gives way to the trickling of a stream, around which creatures rustle in the undergrowth, before disappearing and the birds reclaim the woods.
A dreamlike ethereal dance with the birds and the bees flitting in and out of earshot escaping the human clanking of gates and chains that disturbs their entangled flights. The chords and bass notes are created by deriving playable audio wavetables from the recordings of the birds.
From the perspective of a bee
The ever-present helicopter circles above the park while the bees go about their job of pollinating flowers and the birds gently sing in the mild morning. Flitting between flowers, the bees are ever wary of the ominous threat from the giant swirling machine high above. Is this what it feels like to be a bee? The mechanical whirring gets ever louder and combines with the sound of impending doom (actually an afternoon rehearsal at the Regent’s Park open air theatre). The bees seek refuge on the warm compost heap, where they are comforted by the sounds of hundreds of ants and woodlice colonising the compost. The bees decide to venture again and realise that they live in a city and, like the birds, and humans, must try to exist in harmony with the mechanical beasts.
The Sounds of the Undergrowth project was delivered by The Royal Park’s Mission: Invertebrate project in partnership with Toby Edwards. Thanks to the support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Mission: Invertebrate carry out expert research, develop habitats and offer opportunities for people to learn about invertebrates and about why they are the most important creatures living in the parks.