Holystone with Chris Watson and Mike Harding

In March 2006, Chris Watson, Jana Winderen & Mike Harding visited Holystone in Northumberland.


Holystone Forest, Northumberland, England
Saturday 4th March 2006
Chris Watson & Jana Winderen with Mike Harding

Light snow cover/light breeze/cold/clear and dry/high pressure

Ancient oak woodland


1 x Shure single point stereo mic on 70m cable, rigged on tree stump about 3m high, back to observation point [OP] to Fostex FR2 field recorder
1 x Sennheiser MKH60/30 middle and side rig on 50m cable into a small clearing, back to OP to SQN 4S mixer feeding line inputs of a sound device 744T portable
hard disc recorder

3 pairs of headphones were shared by the group

0340 got up, cuppa tea
0410 on the road
0515 arr. Holystone
while setting up we heard several tawny owls singing, very clear and close
0610 recording commenced with quiet pre-dawn atmospheres – light snow drifted off branches onto dry leaf litter. Superb acoustic conditions and low ambient noise provided Chris with the best recordings of this type in deciduous winter woodland he has yet made
0715 derigged and relocated

birds recorded included robin, wren, blue tit, great tit, tree creeper, chaffinch, tawny owl, pheasant, crossbill, coal tit etc.

after approximately 30 minutes, the initial chorus subsided and after approximately 15 minutes we derigged and relocated.

In the car park, Jana practised using a Telinga “Science” parabloic reflector on a range of birds including chaffinch and coal tit in the coniferous woodland bordering the car park.

Then after relocating to the Northumberland Wildlife Trust Reserve, a mixed coniferous and deciduous woodland in the valley of Holystone burn, in bright sunshine, now calm, colder, but superbly clear conditions. We located a hairy wood ant’s nest after some alarm that our initial nest sites had been destroyed by forestry logging operations, and we carefully inserted 2 Dolphin Ear Pro hydrophones into the nest, approximately 20 cms into the main body of the nest on the south-facing side.

The nest was completely covered in snow and apparently inactive. We returned 15 minutes later to allow settlement and expecting more activity as the sun shone directly onto the nest. Listening revealed surprising levels of activity, despite the cold, but there were no visible signs of the occupants of the nest!

Conclusion: although the activity sounded close, further listening seemed to indicate that the ants were deeper underground that we thought, after a protracted period of cold. They were not near the surface as first thought.