Bumps in the Night: nocturnal field recordings


As we move towards summer the sounds emanating from the darkness increase in variety and volume. The near silence of the winter nightscape is replaced by the calls of animals as they emerge from their daytime hiding spaces.

We hear these sounds in emotionally illogical ways, our reactions often stemming from the alien character of the sonic source points – nocturnal insects, amphibians and bats are difficult to anthropomorphise and so, to an extent, they are rendered unknowable. As is often the case the unknowable provokes fear and loathing.

Following are some recent field recordings which might illustrate this point:


For several minutes I lay in bed wondering what was producing this sound. Curiosity finally got the better of me and I discovered that the mysterious beating outside my window was in fact an Australian Bladder Cicada caught in a spider-web. This nocturnal activity, hidden from view, was only revealed through sound.


A banging and popping commenced against a balcony window. A swarm of Christmas Beetles was flying towards the nearest available light, their wings buzzing in a low register, crashing into the windows and walls, then landing onto the balcony where their spiny legs frantically scratched against the floorboards in a bid to mate with other beetles who had fallen nearby.


As the sun sets behind the hills fruit bats begin to screech from the tree-tops, anticipating their flight into nearby forests in the search for food. In the swamp below the sounds of frogs add an unearthly quality to the night.

It is these nocturnal sounds that I find the most fascinating. Responding to a lack of visual cues our listening becomes more acute; our imagination is sparked to a greater extent than during the day as unfamiliar sounds are projected from the shadows. It is no wonder that gothic tales are rich with descriptions of characters reacting to bumps in the night.

7 thoughts on “Bumps in the Night: nocturnal field recordings

    1. Aside from lack of traffic noise I think these sounds could even be heard in Australia’s cities too, they’re are something which we are all familiar with. I hope this doesn’t change as our population increases.

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