Mojave Soundscape

I've written recently about the desert's visual resources. The term itself - visual resources - seems so inadequate; as if you could actually quantify the serenity and beauty of a desert landscape.  The Mojave Desert has a soundtrack that is equally difficult to capture.  When I'm not in the desert, I can at least enjoy the photos I took of the landscapes, but my cheap camera microphone is never going to pick up all of the beautiful sounds.   I have tried using the video function on my camera to record the sound of the coyotes in the distance, but I'm left with a couple of faint yips drowned out by the breeze hitting the microphone.

Luckily a pair of naturalists, Sarah Koschak and Andrew Skeoch, travel the world recording the sounds of nature, and compiled sounds from the Mojave Desert in an album available on their website.   Sarah wrote about realizing her wish to camp amongst Joshua trees under a starry sky, and listening to the yip of the coyotes.  Near the Granite Mountains, she recorded some the sounds so familiar to some of us, but are otherwise missed by those who are not lucky enough to experience the chorus of desert wildlife at dawn or dusk.

You can listen to a sample of the album here:

The great horned owl in Sarah and Andrew's recording from the Mojave reminds me of camping near the Granites in 2011;  I drifted in and out of sleep, always happy to hear the great horned owl calling somewhere above our campsite.  The yip of the coyote is also featured in the album; I remember an early morning drive out to the Kelso Dunes, stopping for a tortoise in the road.  As I watched the tortoise from a distance, I could hear what sounded like two sets of coyotes calling to each other from among the creosote bushes. 

Photo by Sarah Koschak, from her blog Listening Earth.

The white-tailed antelope ground squirrel is featured on track 12.  I've often triggered its alarm as I have hiked across the desert.  You know you've stumbled into its territory when its gives that call - which sounds to me like a hyper-caffeinated giggle - seemingly warning others to the presence of a big, clumsy human.  The Phainopepla also has a starring role in the album;  I've heard its curious call among the riparian habitat in Shoshone, California.  This striking bird does not seem too shy, often confident in its perch atop trees along the Amargosa River.

The cactus wren is probably my favorite, even though its call is admittedly not the most melodious or endearing.  Every time I hear its distinct sound I am reminded that wildlife can find a home even among the seemingly hostile thorns and spines of desert plants.   If you cannot be in the desert as often as you'd like - which is one of my laments - this album is a nice way to bring reminders of its beauty to your home.


  1. Made me homesick for my second home - not second house, let me be clear. And, when a coyote let lose right outside my living-room window, I was sure the banshees had arrived.


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