Saturday, November 17, 2012

Audio Research 101

This is just to help those... that are willing to listen , and really want to be able to separate known sounds, from those that could be classed as unknown. The thing that really helped me, was to put out a long term (overnight is fine) recorder in an area of interest, and listen to All of the audio.. and not just review the WAV or spectral peaks in the files. Although there is no way to really put a positive source to the unknown sounds and vocals.. you can learn a hell of a lot about known sounds and vocals. It has been a very educational tool for me, and has greatly helped me in separating what should be there, and what might even be more interesting. The internet is a wonderful resource, for comparing recorded sounds against known bird, animal, and insect sounds. It can also be used to hook up with other recordists, and compare and share your unknowns. I am stymied by the number of sasquatch enthusiasts, and (so called) researchers.. that don't know a Barred Owl call, from an unknown vocal. This owl is by far, the biggest fooler.. and will openly admit, it fooled me in my early years of this interest, on several occasions. Coyotes, and other woodland canines, can also make some surprising sounds. Still, I have heard vocals within coyote activity.. that seem to chime in, but don't sound canine. Whether they are, or not.. is still to be determined. A big (if nearly impossible) challenge.. but that is what makes the hobby, so interesting. I made sure to educate myself, all I could .. by getting a CD of all owl calls and variations of them, in the eastern US.. as well as vocals of known mammals, amphibians, and insects. In addition, the long term recording has shown me even more variations of known wildlife and woodland sounds, not found on any CD. In the future, I will have to do that all over again, in the Philippines... where known sounds and vocal recordings, are not readily available. How am I going to figure all that out ? I'm going to try and find a way, and it should keep me interested for the remainder of my days (and nights). Separating the known , from the unknown.. is a continual challenge, and something needed to be updated, and kept current. This should be the first step, one should take.. before trying to figure out what is making the unknown sounds and vocals.. which is plenty hard enough, without confusing them with the known ones.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Vermont voodoo... and / or other unexplained field happenings

The more time I spend in quality locations out in the field, the more complex and confusing things seem to get, and the questions it all brings out.. as far as what is really going on, out there at night. This past spring, we held our first ever expedition, in the Green Mountain NF, in Vermont. The area we chose was within the "Bennington Triangle", which is noted for hundreds of years worth of strange incidents, UFO sightings, people disappearing, and yes.. sasquatch reports. The "Bennington Monster" was said to have attacked a stage coach (full of passengers) in the early part of the 19th century. Reported sightings and incidents have occurred since, but spaced out by many years.. right up to present times. The Native Americans thought the mountain and surrounding area.. was cursed, and avoided it. Most of the main road and rustic camping areas, were still closed to vehicle traffic.. due to the storm damage (downed trees and washed out roads) from hurricane Irene. We settled into a nice large area, to camp.. just a short walk to the gated road that leads into the depths of the forest. We did a day hike, to scout out some locations, to hold our first night's OP. Two of us, also climbed a ridge and found a good level spot near the top.. to set up a camera trap, bait, and my audio recorder. It was right next.. to some of the most dense, mature, and dark forest, I'd been in, in a while. We found a couple suitable areas that looked good for observation and listening. We noticed right away, that radio communication with the base camp was not good, and spotty, at best. We were between a couple mountains... but nothing we hadn't done in similar conditions in the Adirondacks, while not experiencing anything quite like we were.. that hampered our communications, throughout the outing. This interference, was at times.. all out failure, while other times, random.. and would go from radio to radio. I walked right next to another researcher, and could hear his transmission, but nothing on my own radio.. and then, it would reverse.. I could hear the transmission, and he could not. When I replied, he heard nothing from my transmission.. standing 6 foot away from him. As a former communications (CSI) specialist, I am stumped by what occurred.. but still think it could be something natural. Solar activity, or magnetic mineral deposits in the mountain ?. But I would also think it would have effected everything at once ( All radios ), and not the strange pattern of bouncing from one radio to the next, as I described above (?) We sat in teams in the locations, while the audio recorders did their thing. At around the hour just before midnight.. is when things happened. We got a transmission, that one team member in the other team of 3.. was going in for a closer look in the forest near an abandoned campground.. after hearing sounds and movements. Much to our dismay, and frustration.. we could not communicate with him, nor his team, during the incident. It got to the point where we relayed transmissions to the base camp (that we received ..broken up, and randomly).. where our coordinator, was getting quite worried about not hearing from the investigator, and wanting us to go and get him out of the lone situation, being it at night and the situation at hand. Finally, to all our relief.. we did hear from him, and that he was out and back in the open campground, with the rest of his team. One member, had first heard some branch snapping and what sounded like sizable movements. When he went in to get closer, he shined a light on what looked like a large fallen over stump, that was between two other large trees. Something about the stump, looked out of place there, and he noted several lighter patches on it, and that it almost looked like something hairy.. but was totally still, and blended in very well. Finally, after observing it for a period of time.. he shined the light elsewhere. Upon the investigator moving, and then shining the light back to the same location (between the trees).. the "stump" was gone. This got him quite excited, but also wanting to rejoin his team , and out of his solo situation in the dark. No sound was heard in the exit, of whatever this was (sound familiar ?). Just after (all within a 20 minute time frame) this happened to the team of three.. the two of us also had some interesting things go on, at our locale. My partner thought he observed dull and blinking red eye shine, in the direction not far from where he placed his recorder. He wasn't sure at first, but after seeing it again, down further.. he mentioned it to me, and I called it in to our coordinator at base. Not more than several minutes later, I caught a dark, low movement with my peripheral vision, that crossed the forest road in a low spot.. maybe 20 yards away from us (we were sitting back, to back), and then.. the same dull red eye shine, that fit the description of what my partner had seen. This got us excited, as well. Just to note.. the eye shine we each saw was similar, if not an exact matching description. My partner, noted what he saw as about 6' off the ground, while what I saw was very low, and maybe 3' off the ground, and on the move. I also heard a single tree tap (what sounded like one) directly out in front of me. The timing of these events, seemed to indicate something that moved around us, and than was gone. No further incidents happened that night, nor the next night while sitting out on the night OP. I was quite dismayed.. how the tree tap, did not come through in my audio, as my recorder was running during the entire event. Next day, we investigated the area, and one member found a good track.. that was right in the same low area, I noted the movement and eye shine. It was 15" x around 4 -5" wide, and had all the same characteristics of the tracks we observed and cast, in the Adirondacks, last fall. It was also going in the direction that I noted the movement and blinking dull eye shine. Does this conclude anything ? Does it ever ? I was quite happy for Mike.. who has been at this longer than me, and was unable to pull his cast (we were chased out by a looming snow storm) track in the Adirondacks last fall. This time.. it went well, and there was something to bring home and show for his (and all of our) efforts in the field. On the final night, two other members joined us (husband and wife). The members had recorded some interesting howls in Mass., on an earlier date.. and proceeded to play the recordings for us in base camp, over dinner. It was very interesting audio, but the lady member continued to play it at full volume.. over and over again. I wish I could have convinced her to upload in to the website, so I could have compared it to what I recorded here in Vermont, around the same time the other incidents took place. She seems to have her own ways, and agendas, and is not one for taking suggestions.. although I do like her, I am quite disappointed with her attitude in sharing her audio.. to work with, to at least.. compare. What exactly are we out doing this for, in a group with a (supposed)like minded membership ? Later, she took her husband home (they only lived an hour away), and then came back with another person, that was not a full member (much to our dismay). On the drive back into the forest, she claims to have been followed by an bright amber colored, glowing sphere of light (or orb).. that kept pace with the vehicle, until it finally veered off, and disappeared over one of the many bodies of water, next to the forest road. We had just gotten back from our night OP, and she seemed very freaked out by it, and her story was confirmed by her passenger (and uninvited guest). I found it interesting.. fitting in well with the legend of the place, and other weirdness.. but decided not to ride along , when several of them went back to investigate. As mentioned, I did pick up some rather distant, but interesting audio, that I clipped out of the long overnight recordings. One, was a high pitched two toned sound or call, that sounded somewhat similar to what our couple recorded, in Mass. : In addition, I also recorded this very strange sounding vocal (if a vocal) that sounded like chanting or humming. It had the same nature of the high pitched call, but was almost 600Hz lower. Shown here in a spectrogram screen capture : I am convinced of the strangeness of that place, but have no good explanations (so what's new ?) for any of it. I think it is a worthy locale for future outings and investigations. Also worthy of a long term audio recording project. Could the locals and Native Americans be right about this area ? I would have to say from my first experience there.. probably, yes. It will be interesting, to note what happens.. the next time around. A brand new term was born ( The Glastonbury Grassman ), in our group dictionary of squatchy things. While walking back and scanning the grassy bog (see attached photo) at night, we came upon a shape that appeared like it could be a crouching creature, in the water. It was just a trick of the dark and our shining lights, but got one of the members curious enough to lob a rock at, the out of place, grassy mound. Nothing happened ( of course ), but got the rest of us thinking.. was that a good choice, to lob a rock at.. something you're not completely sure what it is, yet.. in the dark (?) That time, it was good for a few nervous laughs, and broke up the monotony of many hours spent.. just listening and watching in the dark, quietly. That is what this nocturnal research, mainly consists of. You have to like doing it, and know that eventually.. more interesting things are bound to happen.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A trackway find, surrounded by more forest unknowns

In the fall of 2011, our group expedition was conducted in a vast wilderness area, in the southern Adirondacks.. where we had not held a group outing, before. This area, had some reported sightings before, and again after.. this outing took place.
Due to a very early cold spell in October, that threatened the east coast with heavy snow.. the attendance was low, and there were only three of us. We met up, and chose a campsite that we thought was suitable, that was naturally carved into a ridge line, with higher ground on each side of us. We thought it would be a great spot to be "observed" by anything that wanted to do so. It would not of been a great spot to set up tents, during a time when heavy rain was forecast.. but not the case here.
We kept one ear on the NOAA weather forecast, and set up our camp. Temps were only in the 20s, and did not break freezing, the entire weekend.
Taking an afternoon hike out of camp, we came upon an area we thought would be suitable for a night OP, that overlooked a grassy clearing, with the forest dirt road, and thicker forest on the opposite side . Upon investigating, we decided on a spot for a camera trap, and to hang pheromone bait. One investigator found a large area of matted down grass, that looked like deer had been using it as a bed down spot. Another, had found some questionable impressions on the roadside (in the softer ground) that resembled the shape of large human tracks, but did not offer much detail. Everything was carefully documented, as one investigator and myself started to slowly walk back to camp on the forest road, while the other finished photographing and measuring the impressions.
Branch snaps were heard, which drew my fellow investigator to the forest edge to listen, and then he walked a little ways in. More snaps were heard, that got him a little further into the thicker forest, while I watched him from the road. He then.. called us into the area, and sounded pretty excited. He explained how he had noticed a dark shape in the distance, that moved in between several trees, at around 70 yards or so away. Also, he pointed out what looked like several fresh tracks in the lite (half inch or so) of new fallen snow that still remained in the forest, from a day earlier. The tracks were quite deep (at least 1.5 " at the heal), and had a clear shape of a human-like foot, with the ball of heal clearly defined, and the outline of the toe area. No detail in individual toes were noted, due to the leaf and twig debris on the mossy mounds below the snow. It was also clear, that there was a higher (more shallow) ridge that was consistently noted at about 4-5 " from the back of the heal (seemed like a crossing high point.. break, or flex point of the tracks), on all the 12" tracks that were found.. as more were also found, that lead away from the road.. until we could no longer see anymore. This was impossible to follow.. in case anyone reading, is wondering why we didn't follow them (we did). We lost the trail, not far from the original find.
We were all convinced, that this was a fresh and substantial find, and it probably never would have ever been noticed, except for the investigator being drawn in by the branch snapping sounds, and the lite coating of snow.. that made the tracks pretty obvious, and easier to find. We were losing daylight fast, and decided to comeback the next morning, and continue to document and cast, the best tracks. It was very exciting, to say the least. It led us to think, that maybe something was watching us across the road in the clearing, from behind a tree and cover of the forest.. while we were doing our investigating and set up.
Back at camp.. we discussed our plans for the evening, while cooking some dinner. We all are believers in audio use in the field, so we all set up separate audio in various locations around camp, and I also set out a remote recorder, at another campsite.. that was next to the stretch of forest we found the tracks in. The weather forecast for the next day.. was sounding more "iffy", and we decided that we would listen more carefully in the morning, and decide or plans.. pending on the forecast, for the next days activities. We also decided not to pitch tents, with temps falling into the teens. We would all be in our vehicles, for the overnight. Also, being there was only three of us.. we decided against the out of camp night observation, because of the extreme cold potential.. and decided to just spend the night near a campfire, and act like campers.. and just see and note what happens.
During the evening, we made a few call outs and wood knocks, but heard no responses. There was a couple strange sounds, and a projectile of some kind.. that sounded like it bounced off the wooden privy outhouse. I decided to throw a small rock, back in the direction the projectile seemed to come from (up on the ridge above camp). I short while later, another was heard hitting in the same area, to our north.. near the back of camp, and outhouse. Maybe it was an acorn dropping on a calm windless night, or it was something being thrown. I don't think the right kind of White Oak trees, were up there, and not directly over the camp.. but it is something we will follow up on, if we do return.. which is very likely. We joked about this, and how the sounds were near the outhouse. A wide range of outhouse jokes, caused us to hurt our sides laughing.. obviously overtired from the drives, and the days activities and cold weather. The campfire, was a God sent. The sky was clear, and it was going to get.. even colder.
The next morning.. we ate, and packed up our equipment, and moved it over to the campsite closest to the forest area and trackway, while I retrieved my still running audio recorder. After another weather check.. the storm system ws predicted to dump 3-5 inches of snow in the county just to our east, and maybe even in our area, which was a downgrade from what was originally predicted. That made us decide to not spend another night in this forest, where a few inches of snow might make driving out, a real challenge on the steep rough roads, filled with large rocks sticking out, and the looming possibility of tree branches coming down , in a heavy wet snowfall.
Another trackway (that appeared to be coming from the south, and headed north, and an entrance to the area.. as the first one discovered ..was an exit..and headed south ) yielded a couple larger prints, also fresh.. that were Not there, the day before.. when the first trackway was found. This led us to think, another culprit (larger, as the tracks were in the 15-16" range) came back (maybe mama ?).. after we left, and went back to camp. It also demonstrated.. just how hard these impressions are to spot, without the lite snow (that finally melted from sunlight).. compared to the day before. These larger tracks, also ended up stopping, behind a tree. One track , that was cast, looked like at had smashed a branch down into it.. that would have caused a mighty sore foot, if it was a person in bare feet that did it. That notion.. is much more ridiculous, than thinking the tracks came from a sasquatch, IMHO. It was Very clear, that the tracks came from a barefoot, and not a boot.
We decided to stay packed, and get the trackway documented and casts made. This took much longer than expected, as the cold temps made ultracal 30.. take much longer than 30 minutes, like it normally would take to dry in warmer conditions. After hours of waiting, and going back (from the second campsite) and checking.. only one cast could be pulled out of the ground, while the other was just too tacky, to try and pull. We decided, it would be retrieved at another time, in the future.
Upon saying our goodbyes.. it was past mid afternoon. It took me until it just started to get dark, to get back to paved roads, and on toward home. The weather held nicely for the drive home, and the storm stayed well to my east, with the October snow dumping record amounts on New England and eastern NY, eastern PA, and NJ. I saw tons of deer on the drive out of the mountains, and narrowly missed hitting several, that bolted out near the sharp curves of the two lane road. In one larger town, I passed through (Old Forge).. they were walking right on the sidewalks, in the almost abandoned.. Saturday night, post tourist season.
Conclusions from this experience and outing..
Photos did not do the tracks any justice. Much more detail can be seen with the human eye, which is always the best camera. This is something to bare in mind, while researching.. to always document and describe what is found in as much detail as you can.. in the field, as the photos and casts ..will not only.. not impress viewers, but will not show details you noticed live in the field, with your own eyes.
The strangeness of the surrounding events, is uncertain.. from what could have been watching us before the trackway find, to what could of been thrown our way, when we sat at the campfire.
The audio results were interesting, as usual. My fellow investigator recorded some loud branch snaps and possible footfalls, from where he placed his recorder.. up on the ridge, above our first camp. Like most audio, it is inconclusive.. but confirmed the strangeness we experienced. The other investigator, took over.. because of the absence of our friend (do to his work place responsibilities) that usually records all our field events, at the base camp. He did a great job with this, noting and covering everything, and plans to compile a complete expedition report.. soon.
I recorded one vocalization, that was determined to take place after we all were in our vehicles, for the night. It was not audible from our camp, but recorded from the other camp, near the forest area that contained the partial trackways. I think it is consistent with other recorded audio from NY and PA, but is well within the human vocal range. The closet campers (hunters) to us, were at least a 10 minute drive away, so it being them.. was unlikely, but not impossible. Here is the link to the clip, from the overnight recording :

There was another report of a sighting, taken by a fellow investigator.. from the same general area, that confirms that this is an area, worth further investigation.. Indeed .