Bird Sounds Recorded from Far Afield

Listener Jonathan Meiburg traveled far to find caracaras and albatrosses.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

We like to take advantage of the fact that we are an oral medium, and use sounds to bring you snapshots of life. You send us all sorts of these sound clips, many of them from your homes or workplaces. Well today, we'll hear something from a little farther away.

JONATHAN MEIBURG: My name's Jonathan Meiburg. I live in Austin, Texas and I'm a musician. I play in a band called Shearwater. But I'm also a part-time ornithologist.

(SOUNDBITE OF A BIRDCALL)

MEIBURG: And this sound comes from a bird survey I worked on in the Falkland Islands - specifically, from a remote island called Steeple Jason.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDCALL)

MEIBURG: Steeple Jason is two-peaks rising out of the South Atlantic and are home to the largest breeding colony of black proud albatrosses in the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRD SURVEYOR)

MEIBURG: Imagine the seagull with about an eight-foot wingspan and you're not far off. Now, imagine a hundred thousand of them sitting on mud nest, each just outside of pecking range of its neighbor, stretching along the coast as far as you can see.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRD SURVEYOR)

MEIBURG: There are also more than 75,000 rockhopper penguins nesting among these albatrosses (unintelligible) back up.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRD SURVEYOR)

MEIBURG: I wasn't on the island though to study the penguins or the albatrosses, but a bird that's been the focused in my research. A strange bird of prey called the striated caracaras.

(SOUNDBITE OF STRIATED CARACARAS)

MEIBURG: These are birds related to falcons - look and act kind of like a combination of a hawk and a crow - curious, resourceful and powerful. But they're also among the rarest raptors in the world, with an estimated population of about a thousand pairs, most of which are probably in the Falklands, where on nearly inaccessible islands near Cape Horn.

(SOUNDBITE OF STRIATED CARACARAS)

MEIBURG: Here at the Steeple Jason colony, where the chicks and eggs of the albatrosses and penguins are an easy target, the caracaras is nest along the colony's edge among tops of a giant grass called tusset(ph) grass that can grow almost 10 feet high.

(SOUNDBITE OF STRIATED CARACARAS)

MEIBURG: Every time we found a nest, after climbing crumbling cliffs, dodging angry albatrosses and bashing through the nearly impenetrable thickets of tusset grass, it was an indescribable thrill.

(SOUNDBITE OF STRIATED CARACARAS)

MEIBURG: Three eggs, three eggs, three eggs.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF STRIATED CARACARAS)

MEIBURG: It's exhilarating to be in the presence of such abundance, but it also kind of poignant to me. It easy to forget when you're standing in the middle of a city of birds - but listening to these sounds now, I can't help remembering that the albatrosses and penguins populations are declining sharply for reasons known and unknown. The caracaras too, have such a tiny population, are literally clinging to life here at the edge of the continent.

(SOUNDBITE OF STRIATED CARACARAS)

MEIBURG: The sounds of these animals are the sounds of a time when the world belong to them.

(SOUNDBITE OF STRIATED CARACARAS)

BLOCK: Listener Jonathan Meiburg traveled from Austin, Texas to the Falklands to gather these sounds. You can find instructions on how submit your own sound clip at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: Coming up on the program: A world famous violinist turned street performer with disappointing results. That's next on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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