Stinking Seaweed

Pile of Rotting SeaweedAt this time of year, late October, you’ll find deep piles of stinking, rotting seaweed at high tide level in many places along the coast of Northumberland. I hope that’s put you off visiting. Job done – too many tourists already.

But I love the stuff. It’s alive! Not only full of invertebrates, but stick your mics into it and it makes a lovely, crackly, bubbly sound that none of your friends will be able to identify. Of course, after coming out of a day’s session recording in there, you might not have any ‘close’ friends left.

So I’ve just returned from a great day splodging around, to the amusement of several labradors and their owners, placing a couple of Sennheisers in the chosen location, and cabling 100m back to my car on the cliff top. The idea was to get the close up calls of feeding birds – mostly redshank, plus turnstone, pipits, wagtails, starlings and the odd crow.

      Redshank Turnstone

The trick is to observe where they like best, then keep turning over the seaweed in front of the mics every hour or so, to reveal a fresh layer of creepy-crawlies. This is a very effective technique, especially as in this particular location the birds are used to regular human disturbance, and will edge back to the ‘bird table’ within a few minutes. I recommend a low tide and an offshore wind to flatten the waves (sadly today the sea was a bit too big).

Most people just walk past rotting seaweed, holding their breath, but for the wildlife sound recordist, invertebrates = food = birds = a recording opportunity.

Carpe diem.


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