March through May in Herring Cove

I currently live in Herring Cove, a village on the outskirts of Halifax, Nova Scotia. In preparation for a larger piece I am working on, I took many field recordings in and around the village throughout this past winter and spring, and this composite of a few of them highlights some of the sounds to be heard throughout the area.

It’s quite challenging to find sounds that are specific to a single place, so that someone listening to recordings of sounds taken there can state ‘yes, I know where that is.’ Sounds both human-made and natural are created by things found everywhere: the wind, car engines, certain birds.

However, taken as a whole, this audio composite says something about what it’s like to live here.

Herring Cove is mainly residential, but a few fishermen operate from the small and well-protected harbour. It’s right on the Atlantic Ocean, so it’s rare that there’s no wind. In late winter, a great deal of the sounds that you hear are things being affected by the wind. The recording starts with the sounds of waves crashing on the granite rock shoreline during one of the many winter storms that occurred early this year.

Amongst the sound of the waves you can hear a groaning buoy, which is so often audible in the distance around the village that you can easily forget it’s there. It’s louder when the wind comes from the east.

The recording transitions into the sound of wind blowing through spruce trees in a small provincial park next to the town. After that, you can hear the sound of the wind rattling the many slightly-loose doors in a cluster of public mailboxes.

Next is the sound of the wind blowing through the hollow bamboo-like stems of dead Japanese Knotweed.

Halifax is a busy port, and Herring Cove sits along the same shore that many container ships pass as they go in and out of Halifax harbour. I took the recording of one ship’s horn as it slowly moved past Herring Cove early one foggy morning. In the distance clangs the bell of another buoy not far from the village’s small harbour.

On another morning shortly afterward I was awoken by a seemingly-angry dialogue between two groups of crows, which you’ll hear next. On close listening, some interesting rhythms form between the calls of the crows in each of the groups, and I found the interplay between both groups somehow musical.

While doing recordings by the sea, I managed to capture the drone of a distant harbour pilot boat before the sound of another engine overtook the first: a fishing boat out out to check its lobster traps. I was close enough that the fisherman onboard noticed me, and after pulling in one of his traps, he waved a lobster over his head in triumph in my direction.

The fishing boat engine transitions into the sound of a garbage truck going in reverse down a long street, which sounds commonplace at first until the beeping of its reverse signal slowly merges into the landscape as the truck gets further away.

I don’t know yet the names of the birds making the calls in the remaining segments of the recordings, but you’ll certainly be able to pick out at least three woodpeckers. The windswept soundscapes of winter have given way to the active spring texture of birdcalls.