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Svartárkot means “Black River Croft” and is a working sheep farm at the southernmost part of Bárðardalur valley in northern Iceland. It lies on the western bank of Svartárvatn lake, at the southernmost point of Fljótsheiði heath, around 400 meters above sea level, at the foot of the Ódáðahraun lava, the wildest uninhabited lava interior of Iceland. To the south, a wilderness extends all the way to Vatnajökull glacier, the largest ice-cap in Europe. To the south and east lie the rugged uninhabitable areas o the highlands, the domains of glaciers and lavafields. A colourful cultural history is to be found further down the valley towards the lowlands. Svartárkot has been inhabited through most of Iceland’s history and can be seen as a symbol for the interplay between humans and nature, human habitation and wilderness. In addition to sheep, the farmers at Svartárkot maintain a trout fishing business by selling fishing licenses and home-smoked trout and arctic char. They are also experienced guides with a vast knowledge of the interior preserved through generations, and lead both hiking tours and mountain jeep excursions(source).
I was at Svarárkot farm in late May 2018, with Bob Mcguire who was collecting bird sounds in associate with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds. Farmers were busy in lambing and birds in mating, especially Barrow´s Goldeneye. This duck is not common in Iceland. They are mainly found in NE Iceland, around lake Mývatn and at Svartárkot farm, probably because farmers make nesting boxes inside the barn´s walls.
I and Bob spent maybe two or three hours at Svartárkot recording birds, sheep and soundscapes. Just before we were leaving the place, I put up my rig between the lake and the sheep sheds and started recording. The outcome was the following recording.
It starts peacefully in calm weather. Behind the microphones is the sheep sheds and in front is the lake with most of the birds that make sounds in this recording. Nosiest are the Barrow´s Goldeneye with its strange male´s „ticking“ attracting sound. There are also other birds like Raven, White Wagtail, Dunlin, Arctic tern, Common Ringed Plover and Whimbrel. The farmer is driving on four wheeler between the buildings on the farm and suddenly the wind gets stronger until it was almost impossible to continue the recording.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 62Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH8020/8040 (AB40)
Pix: Canon EOS-M

Location: 65.340929, -17.244718
Weather: Calm up to 10m/s, clear sky, about 12°C

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For a long time I have used Rode NT1a for nature recordings. It is a very good mic to capture the finest details in quiet soundscapes. But at the same time there is something missing in the sound quality, especially when it comes to low frequency and „audio depth“.
Last summer I got interest in IRT cross mic setup, so there was a perfect opportunity to invest in other microphones. There were not many mics to choose from with extra low self noise. Nevaton in Russia makes very interesting low noise & high sensitive mics. But my experience with MC50Quad was it did not capture the finest details of the silence as clearly as NT1a or MKH20. So I decided to invest in Lewitt LCT540s which I got for a acceptable nice price (See comparison)
I built a special shock mount for the LCT540s inside Rycote AE windshields (ORTF WS kit P/N:080210). That AE windshield is wider than normal WS windshield, especially made for stereo rigs so it is very good for large capsule, side address mics like LCT540s. Low handling noise is important for less rumbling wind noise and when it comes to LCT540, it is slightly better than NT1a.
Everything was ready for a field test in late Mars so I followed the silence into the country side. I was lucky with the weather, dry and calm, maybe too calm because it makes the silence too quiet for this field test. Anyway sometimes light gust gently wipes the top of trees and bushes which sounds fantastic in the headphones, moving slowly from left to right. It was much easier to feel the depth of the field with LCT540 than it has been with NT1a.
Nothing interesting was audible until in the early morning, about half hour before sunrise, when two Rock Ptarmigan started to „sing“. First in distance, but suddenly, maybe because of curiosity, they flied closer to the microphones and walked around the rig. The following recording is actually this moment.
It was recorded in IRT cross, which gives lot of opportunities in mixing. It gives me four different stereo recording in to four directions, all in NOS, plus many other versions too with different channel mix. It can be useful when looking into specific soundscape. It is for example possible to avoid traffic noise or other unexpected sounds from one or another direction.
The two first enclosed recording below have go through noise reduction process (above 3Khz). But the last one is a short peace without noise reduction, just as it comes from MixPre6, so you can hear the LCT540 self noise, which is about 2dB higher than in NT1a. It was recorded with 48dB gain and HPF at 40Hz. In post, I only normalize the gain level up to max, which rise the gain about +10dB. I did not change the EQ so audience can hear the sound quality at the low frequency. My feeling is that LCT540 have almost same low frequency quality as the MKH series & Nevaton which is very good
This is two versions of the same recording where I mix four channels differently into stereo. Counting channels 1-2-3-4 clockwise to L-R-Ls-Rs and the second one L-R-Rs-Ls (which is usually normal IRT setup).
This is a „high dynamic“ recording of silence, so I don´t recommend it played loud. It might destroy some speakers (ears too) if it is played too loud without attention.
Good monitor headphones are recommended or quality open headphones while listening at low to medium level.

Recording L-R-Ls-Rs
(mp3 256Kbps / 35,6Mb)

Recording L-R-Rs-Ls
(mp3 256kbps / 35,6Mb)

Short version of recording L-R-Ls-Rs without NR
(mp3 256kbps / 7,4Mb

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics. Lewitt LCT540s (IRT cross setup) Running on 70m Sommer Mercator CAT7 S/STP cable
Pix: Canon EOS M50
Weather: Calm, dry, between -2 to +4°C, about 7:30 o´clock

Location: 64°40’23.7″N 21°37’43.7″W

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Látrabjarg, is a promontory and the western most point in Iceland (and Europe). The cliffs are a home to millions of birds, including puffins, northern gannets, guillemots, black legged kittiwake and razorbills. It is vital for their survival as it hosts up to 40% of the world population for some species e.g. the Razorbill. It is Europe’s largest bird cliff, 14km long and up to 440m high.(wikipedia)
This recording was made on the cliff edge in Ritugjá (Kittiwake Canyon), ca 90 meters above sea level and several hundreds meters fron Bjargtangar lighthouse. This recording contains mainly Kittiwake and chicks, also Razorbill which are mostly lower in the cliff

(mp3 256kbps / 58Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: DPA 4060 Baffled / binaural
Pix: Canon EOS-M
Location: 65.499899, -24.526950
Weather: Light breeze, clear sky
Rec. date & time: 9th of June 2016, around 1am

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Imagine, It is 3:30, mid summer morning. You are within five kilometers from the arctic circle and two and a half kilometers from the north Atlantic ocean. It is calm, and dry and the sun which has never goes completely down this night, gives a silk smooth light through thin layer of clouds. The biosphere is remarkable. It is visible everywhere. From bugs in the grass, fish in the brook to the birds in the air or in the field. All living species seems to be busy to live in beautiful harmony with Mother nature,
You are located at Skinnalónsheiði (heathland) which is close to Hraunhafnartangi peninsula, northern most part of Iceland.
Just a few weeks earlier this place was frozen under ice and snow, extremely quiet and almost a lifeless place.
The following recording is quiet, even though it’s biological busiest time of the year. Bird songs and call’s are mostly in the distance, but sometimes something catches the attention, like the wriggling fish in the brook, or different uncommon songs from different bird species.
Background noise is mostly surf from the ocean two and half kilometers away or sometimes swarm of midges.
Many bird species are in this recording. Whooper Swan, European Golden-Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Whimbrel (European), Black-tailed Godwit (islandica), Dunlin, Purple Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Common Redshank, Parasitic Jaeger, Great Black-backed Gull, Arctic Tern, Red-throated Loon, Meadow Pipit, Snow Bunting, Rock Ptarmigan and Great Northern Diver, Great Black-backed Gull, Graylag Goose, Long-tailed Duc.
Another recording was made that same night several kilometers away, nearby Hraunhafnartanga peninsula. Listening here.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(256mbps mp3 / 74Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40)
Pics: LG G6
Location: 66.513116, -16.149781
Weather: Calm, dry, light clouds, 11C°
Recording date: 29th of May 2018

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Remote islands are interesting places. Almost every island has it’s own ecosystem which can be interesting to record. One of those islands is Elliðaey, which is a part of Vestmannaeyjar islands, south of Iceland.
I got an opportunity to go there on a 24 hours trip with Bob McGuire, which is recording birds in association with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds.
I am not a specialist in the ecosystem in Elliðaey so I will not say much about it here. It is slightly different between each island in the region and the bird species can be different from cliff to cliff
Our main target in Elliðaey was European storm petrel and Leach’s storm petrel. Bob was collecting individual calls and songs but I was going to record hours of ambiances. The bird colony gives a strong smell as usual, but this island also has a strong smell of sheep. For decades there have been several landowners and farmers from Heimaey island who keep there several dozens of sheep during the summertime.
Puffins have been in a very difficult situation for many years, especially south Iceland and Vestmannaeyjar islands. Mainly because some annually rhythm changes in the ocean biosphere. That situation was visible in Elliðaey. Probably more than 50% of the Puffins burrows were empty and abandoned and dead chicks were also visible around.
Not all birds have difficulties and many other bird species also live and breed in the island; Atlantic Puffin, Manx Shearwater, Leach’s Storm-petrel, European (British) Storm-petrel, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Northern Fulmar, Common Eider, Common Murre, Black Guillemot, Common Raven, European Starling, White Wagtail
As soon as we arrived I quickly found locations for the recorders and then we walked around in the bumpy landscape for other locations. We were early in the breeding season, 4th of June, so we were even not sure if birds we were going to record, like European storm petrel, had already arrived. What surprised me most was the silence in the interior island. No sound from the ocean waves or cliff birds, only wing flaps from busy birds above our heads, mostly puffins. But there was also a low rumbling noise, which filled the air and was difficult to locate. It took me time to figure out what it was, but it was from ships somewhere far away on the ocean, so far I could not even see them in the horizon. This noise never stopped when I was awake. It was just differently loud during day and the night, and of course louder when ship passed close to the island.
The following recording was made just before midnight on a hill south of the hut in the island, located almost in the middle of a puffin colony.
It is mostly puffins wing flaps, when they fly over, landed close by the microphones and sometimes a „spray & splash sound“ when they poop
Later that night both Leach’s Storm-petrel, European Storm-petrel surprisingly arrived to the island. But that will be for another blog.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 60.3Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser paralell MKH8020/8040 in AB40 (4ch)
Pix. LG G6
Location: 63.466604, -20.176682
Weather: Calm, misty & light shower, ca 12°C

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Ásbyrgi has a fantastic soundscape. It is one of the wonders of nature, a forested horse-shoe shaped canyon in Oxarfjordur. Asbyrgi is a part of Jökulsárgljúfur, within the Vatnajökull National Park.
I was there recording over night for ten hours 1st. of June 2018 . I don´t know if it was the time of the year, or something else, but the cliffs were very quiet this night. Usually I have been there later in June and July and the Fulmar in the cliffs have been noisier.
It was around 8 o´clock in the morning, just before the tourist traffic arrived that the soundscape in the canyon changed. It was like the whole biosphere woke up with lots of birds and insects activity. The following recording is the last 30 minutes that day before the soundscape was ruined by traffic noise and yelling tourists. Several bird species are in this recording. Northern Fulmar, Common Snipe, Eurasia Woodcock, Whimbrel, Red-Necked Phalarope, European golden Plover,  Pink footed Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Redwing, Common Redpoll, and Snow Bunting.
Here you can also listen to older posts from Ásbyrgi: Fairy in Ásbyrgi and Botnstjörn pond in Ásbyrgi.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

  (mp3 256kbps/62,3Mb)

Recorder: Sound Devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40 setup)
Pix: LG G6
Location: 65°59’56.6″N 16°30’44.9″W
Weather: Clear sky, light gust, 5°C

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Last month I published hydrophone recording „Crawling glacier“ from the lagoon beneath Svínafellsjökul icefall.
The original recording contains two other channels with the sound above the lagoon.
It is not as clear in this short mp3 file as it is with headphones in the field, but during the recording it seems to be possible to hear the flow of the icefall though the valley. Its is a slow event. It usually starts high above in the mountain with rumbling sound and then slowly moves in a shock wave as a silk smooth „white noise“ though the valley all the way to the toe of the icefall. Regularly the ice moves faster in some places when the pressure get high. Then it cracks, some parts brake off and other just crawl faster which is usually audible for everyone.
This behavior of the glaciers is not often audible during the day because of traffic, wind or the clear sun which can easily disturb the sound waves in the air. Then it is also too slow for impatient listeners. Nights are usually the best time to hear this sound of the „flowing mass“. Changeable nature or different types of glaciers will also play a big rule how it acts and sounds.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 44,3Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices 788
Mics: Aquarian H2a-XLR & Sennheiser MKH20
Pix: Canon Eos M

Weather: Calm, cludy. 11°C
Location:64°00’12.7″N 16°52’39.6″W

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