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Bird landing with wings spread (book/CD Cover)

Winged Wildlife in the Arctic {format} {format} {format} 3:35 Jeff Rice

Martyn Stewart records birds at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Broadcast: Jan 31 2007 on PRX Nature Stories Podcast; Oct 26 2006 on NPR Day to DaySeries: Western Soundscape Subjects: Environment, Science

Listening to Winged Wildlife in the Arctic Refuge

October 26, 2006 from Day to Day

ALEX CHADWICK, host: News, news, the heck with news. Letís go outdoors: Alaska, which really is the great outdoors, but getting cold these days, the birds migrating to the lower 48. And thatís why producer Martin Stewart went in June. He was going to record birds. He set out four microphones over a 500-yard area in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge back in June, and this is what he got.

(Soundbite of birds)

MARTIN STEWART: Just recording up is a joy, you know, itís just fantastic. Twenty-four hours of light and youíve got these fantastic sounds.

(Soundbite of birds)

STEWART: At any given time youíve got birdsound all around you.

(Soundbite of birds)

STEWART: I was in a tent, in a yellow tent, and I felt like I was sleeping in an embryo, as inside an egg.

(Soundbite of birds)

STEWART: It seemed to be that when the sun went further north, it never actually set behind any of the mountains. It was still in the sky, so it was circling all the time, 24 hours a day. But from 12:00 oíclock to 6:00 oíclock in the morning I found was the most dense part of the day for the sound.

(Soundbite of birds)

STEWART: The plane lands, drops you off, leaves you with all the equipment and then off they go. And then you quickly realize that where you are, the chances of seeing anybody, you know, itís so remote. Probably on the second day I walked out with all my equipments across the tundra. The tundra is very difficult to walk on. You know, you walk in with these boots and youíve got these tufts of grass and stuff in you. You really do find difficult footing.

So Iíd walk a mile away from my base camp and drop my microphones and the recorders and the rest of it, and then over the horizon comes Mr. Grizzly Bear and I realize that I canít stay there to record. So Iíve got to walk back another difficult mile so that Mr. Bear can get out of the way. You know, you just get out of the way because youíre basically standing in his dinner plate.

(Soundbite of birds)

STEWART: Itís kind of takes you back to your primal self, in a way. You can hear your, your heart beating. You can feel your pulse running through. You can basically feel your blood going up and down your arms. Itís an incredible feeling. Iíve never felt like that in any other country Iíve been to. Itís like being in a dream and - but thereís nobody there to wake you up. And so this dream just carries on and on and on until you decide that youíve had enough and you go away.

CHADWICK: Martin Stewart contributes to the new book Arctic Wings. It features a CD of his recordings. And thanks to Jeff Rice of Hearing Voices, the Hearing Voices Radio Collective.