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Friday, January 16, 2009

What is this middle-of-the-night mystery sound?

At about 1:30 this morning we started hearing a strange barking-like sound outside. It's coming from at least two individuals because at times it overlaps. Stepping outside, it *seemed* like the sound was coming from up above, so I thought a bird might be the source. That said, it sounds a lot like a sea lion barking, but I've never seen a sea lion anywhere near our marina. We do see harbor seals, but I've never heard one make an above-water noise, so I have no idea if that could be the source. It definitely does not sound like the most common nighttime noise we hear, the prehistoric crawking of great blue herons which we hear at any time of night.

I've spliced together a few samples I recorded onto my computer and you can hear the clip here. (There's some white noise and the occasional tinkling of our wind chime in the background.) So, who or what is making these sounds?! Please weigh in with your two cents, whether it be an answer, an educated guess, or wild speculation, because inquiring minds want to know!


The K said...

Could be a variation of Great Horned Owl call or barks. It has a large owl quality to it. Check out owl call pages for some samples.

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Sorry no idea!! If you 'sing' however badly or play music do the harbour seals come to listen the Atlantic Greys round here do.


My husband said it sounds like a black bear to him. Maybe a small one, like a half-grown adult. Could that be possible where you are?

Lee Cain said...

My first choice, given that this occurred next to a marina, is sea lion. I hear sounds identical to this all the time when I am looking right at them. Not a full out bark, but a short guttural vocalization is clearly heard 2/3 through the recording.
Second choice is black bear, because it is also like very much like sounds I have heard bears make, but I don't know enough about the site to say if that is a likely occurence.

Monika said...

We don't have black bears here on the island, so that rules that one out.

Other suggestions (some from the Oregon Birders Online List Serv) include geese, cormorants, herons, and a few more votes for sea lions.

I don't think herons are likely since we hear them often and this is very different, with no "typical" heron sounds thrown in.

I think it sounds most like a sea lion, but again, although they're around the islands, I've never seen one near the marina. I heard the sound again last night, and it again sounded like it was coming from above. Unless a sea lion is hauling out nearby only at night and there are some weird acoustics going on? If it happens again tonight I may have to go towards the sound and investigate further...

Renee LaChance said...

I vote for sea lion. I lived 7 years near the Oregon Sea Lion Caves and they could make that noise while out floating in the ocean or hauled out on a pier in Newport. Sound travels oddly by water.
Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...


Monika said...

Porcupine is also out because of location.

The mystery sound continues on most nights, and last night I went out to investigate with a flashlight. I was leaning towards sea lion as an answer but am less convinced now as it really seems to be coming from up in the trees. When I flashed a light into the trees the sound stopped, and after a while I heard some flapping and feather movement from what sounded like a large bird. Alas, I couldn't see anything though. I plan to go out again tonight if its there and continue investigating until this mystery is solved!