NWS03: Colockum Wildlife Area, July 5-8, 2016

by soundeziner

I hadn’t originally intended to stop in the Colockum Wildlife Area. It was a last minute decision made at a gas stop. I'm glad I stayed, though.

The 100,000+ acre Colockum Wildlife Area is on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains. It’s very well known among big-game hunters for its plentiful elk and bighorn sheep, but little-used outside of season.
I accessed through the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility on Vantage Highway. I was early in my drive and had plenty of time on hand.

After stopping by the turbines for a bit of recording, I set off to see how far I could drive in. Turns out you can go pretty far but only very slowly.

Elevations range from 480 feet to 6,875 feet, with steep, rocky slopes and a rolling series of ridges and canyons. Year-round surface water is scarce, leading to dry, rocky “roads” that are inaccessible without four wheel drive. Even then it was hairy and there were times I turned back. It was the first time in my life I ever yearned for a high-clearance vehicle.
About 30,000 acres are conifer forest and the balance is predominantly shrub steppe. Vegetation ranges from the lower elevation shrubs and bunch grasses into Ponderosa Pine, then to higher elevations with dense of Douglas fir, grand fir, and some larch. Grasslands interspersed with rock outcrops and shrub-steppe communities dominate hillsides in transitional zones.
*Portions of the above are excerpted from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_are..._areas/colockum

I camped out off Brewton Road near Colockum Pass the first night. In the morning I awoke to the mellow “poor-will-low” of a Common Poorwill and croaking “booms” of Common Nighthawks, both crepuscular members of the Nightjar family. I think of Poorwills as the alarm clocks of the scrublands: I hear them first, and the chatter of other morning birds always starts as an annoyed “wassat?” shortly after.
As mellow as the Poorwill is, the Nighthawk loudly makes its presence known with loud “booms” made by its wings when pulled in for a dive. They are sometimes called “bull-bats” as they often seen feeding in the dark with the mammalian fliers.
Other singers in the morning’s chorus included Juncos, Creepers, Woodpeckers, Yellowthroats, Chickadees, Swallows, Sparrows, Waxwings, and even a confused Owl.

In the three days I spent here I saw only one other face. I had plenty of non-human friends keeping me company, so I was alone, but not lonely.
Bernie Krause compared soundscape recordings to symphonic orchestrations. He’s right. In a healthy soundscape there’s a place for everyone. They fit together pitch and rhythm. What you hear is a beautiful emergent composition. There’s an order without it being ordered. All the voices compete for their own space. The easiest way to win is to carve out a slice no one else has claimed. When that happens, the result is a complex tapestry of life's sounds. I wish I could have been around here 500 years ago.

Rounding the bend from Colockum Road to Naneum Ridge, I entered the Coffin Game Reserve, a large “safe zone” for the Colockum's elk herds and bighorn sheep. As I sat outside the fence line I could hear bugling bulls (male elk) and dewy chirps of the cows (female elk).
In the early morning, before first light, I woke up and started recording a beautiful dawn chorus, from the distant faint calls of a coyote pack and the wake-up alarm of a lead bull to the silent march of the post-chorus herd past my microphones. Magic. I can’t wait to come back here!

And I did… I’m writing this after my second trip to the Colockum two months later, during rut and just before hunting season opened up. Look for that write-up coming later, filled with elk bugles and squirrels. I’m determined to come back throughout the year and over the years to come. I’m looking forward to hearing Spring in the Colockum.

For more detail: soundeziner.com/2017/03/colock...july-05-09-2016

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I hadn’t originally intended to stop in the Colockum Wildlife Area. It was a last minute decision made at a gas stop. I'm glad I stayed, though.

The 100,000+ acre Colockum Wildlife Area is on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains. It’s very well known among big-game hunters for its plentiful elk and bighorn sheep, but little-used outside of season.
I accessed through the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility on Vantage Highway. I was early in my drive and had plenty of time on hand.

After stopping by the turbines for a bit of recording, I set off to see how far I could drive in. Turns out you can go pretty far but only very slowly.

Elevations range from 480 feet to 6,875 feet, with steep, rocky slopes and a rolling series of ridges and canyons. Year-round surface water is scarce, leading to dry, rocky “roads” that are inaccessible without four wheel drive. Even then it was hairy and there were times I turned back. It was the first time in my life I ever yearned for a high-clearance vehicle.
About 30,000 acres are conifer forest and the balance is predominantly shrub steppe. Vegetation ranges from the lower elevation shrubs and bunch grasses into Ponderosa Pine, then to higher elevations with dense of Douglas fir, grand fir, and some larch. Grasslands interspersed with rock outcrops and shrub-steppe communities dominate hillsides in transitional zones.
*Portions of the above are excerpted from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_are..._areas/colockum

I camped out off Brewton Road near Colockum Pass the first night. In the morning I awoke to the mellow “poor-will-low” of a Common Poorwill and croaking “booms” of Common Nighthawks, both crepuscular members of the Nightjar family. I think of Poorwills as the alarm clocks of the scrublands: I hear them first, and the chatter of other morning birds always starts as an annoyed “wassat?” shortly after.
As mellow as the Poorwill is, the Nighthawk loudly makes its presence known with loud “booms” made by its wings when pulled in for a dive. They are sometimes called “bull-bats” as they often seen feeding in the dark with the mammalian fliers.
Other singers in the morning’s chorus included Juncos, Creepers, Woodpeckers, Yellowthroats, Chickadees, Swallows, Sparrows, Waxwings, and even a confused Owl.

In the three days I spent here I saw only one other face. I had plenty of non-human friends keeping me company, so I was alone, but not lonely.
Bernie Krause compared soundscape recordings to symphonic orchestrations. He’s right. In a healthy soundscape there’s a place for everyone. They fit together pitch and rhythm. What you hear is a beautiful emergent composition. There’s an order without it being ordered. All the voices compete for their own space. The easiest way to win is to carve out a slice no one else has claimed. When that happens, the result is a complex tapestry of life's sounds. I wish I could have been around here 500 years ago.

Rounding the bend from Colockum Road to Naneum Ridge, I entered the Coffin Game Reserve, a large “safe zone” for the Colockum's elk herds and bighorn sheep. As I sat outside the fence line I could hear bugling bulls (male elk) and dewy chirps of the cows (female elk).
In the early morning, before first light, I woke up and started recording a beautiful dawn chorus, from the distant faint calls of a coyote pack and the wake-up alarm of a lead bull to the silent march of the post-chorus herd past my microphones. Magic. I can’t wait to come back here!

And I did… I’m writing this after my second trip to the Colockum two months later, during rut and just before hunting season opened up. Look for that write-up coming later, filled with elk bugles and squirrels. I’m determined to come back throughout the year and over the years to come. I’m looking forward to hearing Spring in the Colockum.

For more detail: soundeziner.com/2017/03/colock...july-05-09-2016