Selecting Subjects for Recording

It's important to understand the basic lifestyle of any wildlife you want to record - its habitat, where, how and on what it feeds, times of year when it should be left undisturbed, times of day or weathers when it will be absent or hiding, any hazards it could present to the recordist and whether it's protected by law.

It's illegal to approach some rare species of birds when they are nesting, and some - notably terns - will actually attack one during the nesting season. All this implies basic knowledge of what wildlife you should expect to be present when selecting a recording site, so the committed recordist will need to do quite a bit of background study. Much of this can be gained by reading and research, but it's also helpful to contact local sources, and above all, observe and remember.

It's also essential to consider accessibility and safety. Obviously one must take natural hazards such as tides, topology, geology and weather patterns into account. But many potential recording sites are also regulated in some way. Nature reserves may impose access restrictions permanently or at specific times of the year, a surprising amount of the wild landscape is controlled by the military, and entry to privately owned land always requires the permission of the owner. There are numerous artillery ranges and MOD exercise areas in places that would otherwise be ideal recording locations. So local knowledge is critical. It pays heavily to contact both official and unofficial sources. Many areas of interest to the wild soundscape recordist within Britain are official reserves with offices where enquiries can be made in advance. But it's also useful to speak to other people who know the area, so groups such as local ramblers and wildlife clubs are useful contacts.

Once you've arrived in the area, the nearest country pub can be a mine of supplementary information. I've almost always found my recording activities to attract huge interest there, and most people seem genuinely keen to help. Documentary sources such as large scale maps and tide tables are also essential, so take them with you not only while recording, but also to the pub. This is particularly important if you find something is not as expected and you have to rapidly find an alternative recording site - which happens more often than one might hope for.