By Bonney Brown
This weekend you can sit in your favorite chair with your computer and take an audio tour of the animal world thanks to the amazing collection of recently digitized recordings at The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
It’s the world’s largest archive of wildlife sounds, over 9,000 species in all, including birds, mammals, insects, amphibians—all available for free online and sure to spark your sense of wonder and imagination. These amazing recordings have been gathered over the past 80 years by scientists and volunteers around the world.
My virtual audio journey started in British Columbia listening to the bizarre tapping and gong-like call of a walrus. Then it was on to a remote lake in the Adirondacks for a recording of the haunting call of the common loon. I listened to the buzz of a katydid in South Carolina and the sounds of a lemur in the forest of Madagascar with just a few stokes of my fingers on a key board.
The dromedary camel in Morocco sounded like he was complaining and a remarkable tui bird from New Zealand was a dead ringer for the famous R2D2. There were recordings of the familiar sounds of the common house cat and the spine-tingling snarl of a cougar.
In some cases, it is the animal’s name that grabs you. I had to hear the spectacled flying fox of American Samoa, the hammer head fruit bat in Gabon, and Parnell’s moustached bat in Costa Rica. Who could pass up a chance to hear the banded wobbegong― a kind of fish—recorded in Queensland, Australia?
In the frog and toad category I started with the sounds of toads and insects in Kenya followed by southern chorus frogs in Florida whose unusual pops and whistles were charming. The sound of spring peepers reminded me of earl y spring in New England. The tree frog recordings transported me back to summer days when I was growing up in Massachusetts. The bullfrog recording perfectly captured their sound that resembles a rusty gate.
There is also some fantastic video on the site, from elephants in Central Africa to a garden spider spinning her web, owls in Arizona, and a vividly colored kingfisher bird.
Check it out for yourself online at macaulaylibrary.org. You will be in awe of the amazing diversity and richness of the animal kingdom.