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London to Utopia - A Feast for Senses



Recently I visited Utopia Environmental Reserve, situated adjacent to Mt Walsh National Park, near the Waterfalls & Rockpools.


While I never search for a particular topic to podcast about, I seem to chat with a lot of people who have made a seachange to the Fraser Coast Region. Every story is unique, except for the destination being the Fraser Coast.


This podcast was another of one of those amazing seachange stories. I am really thankful that Tony Baylis was happy to share a bit of his story with me, and also share his passion for recording bird sounds.


Meet Tony Baylis, Professional Wildlife Sound Recordist, also Secretary of the Australian Wildlife Sound Recording Group (AWSRG) Tony, joined with his beautiful wife Fiona, travelled to Australia some 16 years ago, and after two years of travelling Australia, exploring everywhere from the remotest deserts to the lushest rainforests, they settled in Utopia, in the beautiful Fraser Coast Region. I am totally biased and don't apologise for this!


I feel like I could stop there and write just about the transition from London in the UK, and the contrast that they would have experienced when leaving the concrete capital of England. Visually leaving the striking red of letterboxes, double decker buses & underground signs which are so bold in the cityscape against the grey concrete, grey skies & black clothed fashions. Leaving the city, to resettle in an Environmental Reserve would have to be as extreme as imaginable on the seachange spectrum. Imagine a final sleep in the London, leaving the city sounds, the traffic, hum of electricity, smell of engines, to no sleeping amongst a bird chorus of some 180 or more species, frogs, possums, dingos. A contrast also from not having a personal space in the city, to having room to spread wings, enjoy privacy & be mindful.


However, this story is actually about Tony's passion for birds, which started as a childhood fascination, and something he was able to follow up again later in life. This passion was re-ignited with the travelling around Australia and his passion now takes him even further afield to Papua New Guinea.


So my first response when I learned Tony was a Professional Sound Recordist was, "Is this a real thing?" I don't mean to be disrespectful of an occupation, but I had never heard of a sound recordist. Though the more I think about it of course, this is a whole career which can take you in any number of directions of audio recordings, and of course I have purchased quite a few sounds now to use in my podcast production. So, what a fantastic opportunity to chat with someone who actually does this as their profession.


Having travelled extensively throughout Australia, as well as participating in the AWSRG, he attends bi-yearly workshops with fellow members as well as expeditions with the purpose of recording unrecorded species as far as Papua New Guinea.


Tony reflected on his expeditions to Papua New Guinea to capture bird sounds. The Huon Astrapia, is one of the birds he has recorded. The video below is not Tony's recording but shows you the beautiful bird in the rainforest of the Huon Penninsular, PNG.


The Huon Bowerbird is another bird Tony has a passion for recording and shares with delight his experiences of capturing this rare bird & collecting images also of the next & solitary egg in the next, a first ever recording now added to the National Archive.


Recordings by Tony Baylis are stored in the Australian Sound & Film Archives, British Library & Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds in the USA.


To learn how to capture sounds of the wild, this article written after the author attended a workshop by Tony, is located in the Australian Film & Sound Archives provides information you may be interested in - link here.


If you are interested in joining the Australian Wildlife Sound Recording Group (AWSRG), for only a few dollars you can become a member and part of a community to capture recordings. This is a commitment which you can have little or no pressure, and work at your own pace and level of interest. There are no monthly meetings or pressures placed upon you. There is the opportunity to learn a new skill, join a new community & focus on the audio magic that surrounds us. From a visually impaired/ legally blind perspective, this group and this hobby has opened another world for me to explore. For me, I want to know the birds I am hearing around me, I would like to know what the insects are, what the frogs are. When I listen carefully, I just might be surprised, actually I am certain I will be surprised, at how many different species are around me.


Thank you Tony for sharing your story and opening my eyes to the whole world of the natural sounds..


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