Other Voices: Discovering the language of animals
Re-discovering ancient knowledges that are still within our bones can only lead to new empathies and translations of other tongues, reinvigorating our connection to the world and everything that lives here with us and alongside us. – Introduction to In Other Tongues creative summit, Dartington, in June 2017
A series of listening events through Spring 2017 to introduce and re-connect participants to the diverse voices of the birds and other animals we share our days with, but often pass unheard. A chance to learn who’s saying what, and why. A chance to develop a sense of the natural rhythms of the season, of the day, of the hour. A chance to to find out what animal voices tell us about the nature of our surroundings. A chance to to immerse ourselves in a place through listening, to really get to know how creatures inhabit the world around us, and how we inhabit their world.
The events would be of interest to people who would like to:
- Learn how to identify birds and animals by listening
- Learn how and why animals use sound
- Learn what animal voices tell us about a place
- Have new inspiration for creative work
- Spend time with others who share interest in natural sound and listening
- Take time out to become immersed in the sounds of the natural world
- Safely explore the natural world at different times of the day and night in the company of others
- Enjoy chatting round a campfire
- Take time out to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet!
Facilitators and the origins of the events
The events are organised by south Devon naturalist, birdwatcher and wildlife sound recordist Tony Whitehead and supported by Robin Bowman, Dartmoor based tracker, bushcraft expert, mountain walker, canoeist, wild swimmer and birdwatcher.
The events originated in a desire to further explore and develop ways in which a deeper connection to nature can be encouraged through a deeper listening to the natural world. Tony has led many walks over the years to help people of all ages to discover birdsong. Robin has similarly had long experience of teaching bushcraft skills. Both are interested in animal language, especially birds.
Throughout the series of events we are particularly interested in reflection and feedback from participants throughout spring. Likewise, we are also interested in how participation affects life beyond the events, be that in daily outlook, health and wellbeing or inspiration for creativity.
What we learn, as facilitators, and from you as participants will for part of a seesion at the In Other Tongues creative summit at Dartington Hall in June (http://inothertongues.info/)
All the events will be held at a private woodland near Mortonhampstead on the edge of Dartmoor. The site is wonderfully diverse, with wooded areas, streamside wetlands and heath. Due to this diversity it is also home to a rich variety of birds and animals. And, being a private site it is wonderfully quiet and undisturbed.
The advantage of basing ourselves at one site is to help participants follow changes in a particular place throughout the season, and to really get to know it’s many wildlife characters.
Location details will be given on booking.
Each event will be a mix of walking, quiet sitting and reflection, learning to identify the different sounds and what the animals are doing, and discussion about what is being heard. The events will be at different times of the day and night, and of different durations, all aimed at encouraging immersion in the place, and a deeper familiarity and relationship with the birds and animals that make the site their home.
Using the site’s purpose-built round-house (White Deer Lodge) we will also be able to warm ourselves round a campfire, cook and have shelter if it is wet.
There will be five events between February and June, each allowing participants to explore the site at different times, and for different durations. While we would like participants to book to attend all the events as a series, individuals can also choose individual events.
Saturday 11 February. 3pm – 8pm
What is the sound of winter? Feeding flocks of birds moving through the canopy each with their own calls. Overhead redwing and fieldfare before their journeys back to Northern Europe. Raven and buzzard. The rustle of dead leaves on the forest floor, the cold wind in the branches. The scrunching frost, or puddling mud? A some song … thrushes maybe? Early harbingers of spring. And as the night falls, and the full moon rises, what will be heard then? On this event we’ll spend time tuning in to the sound of the cold months as dusk falls, walking, sitting and gathered quietly around the campfire.
Wednesday 15 March. 5am – 10am
As we approach Spring Equinox when day and night are of equal length, winter gradually tips into spring. While the rest of the world may be getting ready for work, we’ll gathering ‘round the fire at first light and listen to one of the seasons early dawn choruses, to the overall effect, and picking out individual voices. We’ll then take a slow walk around the site, stopping to sit and listen as and when we feel the time and place is right. Then back to the fire for breakfast.
Friday 14 April -Saturday 15 April 7pm to 9am
April is a time when birds are becoming their most vocal. In this immersive overnight event we’ll start by listening to the dusk chorus, then spend time tuning in to the sounds of the night. Then back to the campfire to settle down, spend quiet time, maybe doze, awaiting the first song of the morning.
Thursday 25 May – 4:30am to 10pm
An immersive day long listening experience to allow participants the opportunity to know the daily rhythm of the natural world. We’ll spend our time gently connecting with the place and the wildlife from from the point the sun rises to the time it sets, listening to different intensities as the hours pass, and being present to the day’s changes.
Thursday 22 June – Afternoon to Evening – 3pm to dusk
As summer solstice passes we’ll spend a quiet afternoon and evening exploring the sounds of high summer, particularly the voices of insects and, as the sun sets, we’ll look for nightjars, one of the more unusual sounding birds here on the edge of Dartmoor.
Group size and cost
Each event will be open to eight participants; the numbers being kept deliberately small due to the nature of the activity. We would welcome people booking on all the events, as we would like to develop as a group in relation to the site and what we are experiencing. But we understand this may not be possible for everyone, so if people wish to book one or a few, then this is OK as well.
The events are free. Tony’s time running these events is being covered by his employer as part of a sabbatical, and Robin, who owns the site, has kindly offered it free of charge. All we ask is that you share your reflections on the events.
More about the event leaders
Tony has had a lifelong interest in birds and wildlife. He has worked for RSPB for over twenty years in a variety of roles from managing nature reserves, running environmental educations projects to managing the charity’s communications in the south west. His passion is for the sounds of birds and how people can be encouraged to connect to nature through listening to and learning the “language” of wildlife.
An avid birder since the age of six, Robin runs Nature Connection and Bushcraft events and camps with a large variety of schools and organisations. He currently runs Hunger Games themed camps for teenagers through WildWise as well as working with young prisoners and recovering adult addicts for the charity Write to Freedom. In his spare time he lives with his young family in the middle of Dartmoor running a smallholding and managing a large woodland. Robin shares his skills, knowledge and experience with passion and humour, and is still so into birds he has named his son after one!
Other Voices is part of In Other Tongues: exploring the knowledge of, and between, species