I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of listening recently, and of how crucial it is to any wildlife watching you do.
Some of this has been prompted by the current nightly sound of Tawny Owls outside the house. When it’s the male hoot ‘Hoo-hooOooo’ it’s a lovely, gentle, restful noise. When it’s the female going ‘Kee-WICK!’ loudly, and very close to the window, it’s not quite so welcome. I’ve even taken to nicknaming this bird “Alarm”, as she has a tendency to wake me at 3am! Incidentally, has anyone ever heard owls go ‘Twit-twoo’? I certainly haven’t. I know we are often told that it’s call-and-response from female to male and back, but even so, not something I’ve heard. I suspect it’s a myth from hearing those two Tawny calls relatively close together. Anyway…
This all reminded me how, even when we think of it as quiet, it rarely is. Birds are still calling, as are insects and amphibians. Even more impressively, much of the time when we believe it to be silent, it’s still not the case. We have a hearing range of between 20 and 20,000 Hertz, which sounds like quite a lot. Yet there are species such as some bats and marine mammals that can hear as high as 200,000 Hertz!
Stand outside your house on an evening and a whole world of communication is going on that you are just not aware of. You can use a bat detector, but this is really a glimpse, not a true experience of the reality.
So what’s it all for? Is it just pleasant background noise? Or something more sophisticated? We’ll return to this tomorrow.