Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Audio Scratch Pad: Sonic Solution

My morning walks to the bus station take me along 3rd street through a portion Indiana University's campus here in Bloomington.  Initially I decided upon that route because it's a pretty campus, but as the weather became colder I stuck with this route because the grounds folks there are super diligent about keeping the sidewalks clear of snow, ice and debris.  When I approach Jordan and Myers Halls, I typically walk under about four trees that have hundreds of crows perched in them.  The noise they make when they see me is deafening, and the sidewalk beneath is white with crow shit.  No lie/exaggeration - there's more bird shit than pavement.  There are so many crows that I can literally smell them (they smell like wet straw) when I walk beneath the tree.  If I'm drinking coffee, I instinctively cover up the top when I walk under the trees.  It would only be a matter of time before the poop found my cup.

One morning, about 4 weeks ago, there was silence as I approached the "Murderer's Row"*.  Everything stayed silent.  Before I could hypothesize about why this was, a van with an I.U. logo on it passed me at a slow speed with a flood light trained into the trees.  I.U. had gotten rid of the clouds of crows that had taken those trees as their own little break room.  I was immediately alarmed and worried.  Not because I have any particular affection for crows, but because I had envisioned some awful "cure" to the "problem" - a cure that would involve pesticides or hunters or God only knows what.  My assumption was that something horrible had been done to rid the campus of the crow menace.  My righteous indignation was getting ready to kick into high gear.

The next morning I heard this.
Then it occurred to me what happened.  The university is broadcasting the sound of the crows' natural predator to scare them away.  You can tell it's a recording by the sort of doppler effect that occurs when the direction of the speaker aims a different direction.  I haven't figured out what bird makes this sound (I've reached out the the university to learn more about the situation, but haven't heard back yet), but I'm 99.9% sure that's what's going on.  It's the same sound in the same sequence in the same spot at the same rate - every morning.  I think this is a brilliant idea.  But listen to the recording:  you can hear a crow or two cawing towards the end.  I  think the crows are onto the university. . . .

*-Get it?  Because a group of crows is called a "murder"?  I just now made that up. You gotta admit that's a pretty dope name.  Okay you're right:  it doesn't even make sense/isn't used properly.

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