Why does birdsong so often lift the human spirit? It certainly does mine. Join me as I listen to the wonderful sound of the May Dawn Chorus now in full flow.
The Dawn Chorus
With light creeping up from the east and a stillness in the air, all is hushed as if waiting for something special to happen. At this lovely time of day when most of our noisy world has not yet awoken I enjoy the chance to taste again something of lost Eden’s first light. As day breaks ready for a fresh start I find myself once again marvelling at Creation’s beauty in the stillness of untarnished dawn.
I’m ready to listen to an unforgettable half-hour of sheer heavenly joy and delight with a sense of having this performance all to myself. But of course I’m not alone, but sharing in something much bigger (tomorrow is International Dawn Chorus Day). Millions of others have been hearing this melodious sound as the Dawn Chorus has been moving across the globe following the sun.
Birdsong deserves serious listening and at dawn there’s happily very little else to distract as I try to identify the various songsters. Blackbirds are the lead singers as usual. Our own is singing loudly from tree to house top, then back to another tree clearly marking its territory. It even sings as it flies, something I’ve never noticed before. I can hear many other blackbirds in the surrounding gardens accompanied by a large chorus of other birds. The glorious sound echoes around this part of the village.
But there are some missing voices….
Some years ago we were stopped in our tracks in this public garden by a song thrush singing in full flow in one of these cherry trees. The bird seemed oblivious to us for a magical few minutes.
I’ve always loved hearing the thrush, but after a brief song earlier in the year, I’ve heard nothing more so far. If you’ve had thrushes singing do let me know to reassure me that these lovely songsters are still around.
Cuckoo Call – an Elegy
The favoured few may have heard the odd Cuckoo call. Recently a local birder reported hearing one in the Arun valley raising a tantalising glimmer of hope. I must watch this space with interest. If only! The rest of us have to be content with nostalgic memories of those magical moments when we heard these birds calling repeatedly across the countryside. Our wistful mood is so eloquently expressed in Delius’ hauntingly beautiful ‘On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring’.
Swallows, Swifts and House Martins
However, many other summer visitors do still arrive to gladden us with their company. To my delight today I heard the first Willow Warbler in the next garden. It’s such a pleasure to welcome back this tiny visitor all the way from Africa to summer with us.
Soon, hopefully, high pitched screeches in the sky overhead on sunny days will tell us that the Swallows and House martins are back and that summer is almost at hand. Watching a group of Swifts dash in between the older houses not far from here screaming their delight it’s hard not to share their obvious sense of joy to be alive.
Birdsong is a statement, ‘ I’m here everyone!’ Another local birder reports : ’Swifts have been returning to our house for nearly 40 years at least now. We’re very happy to see them back’ (April 25th).
‘…..‘Look! They’re back! Look!’
….They’ve made it again,
Which means the globe’s still working, the Creation’s
Still waking refreshed, our summer’s
Still all to come —
And here they are, here they are again
Erupting across yard stones..’
From ‘Swifts’ by Ted Hughes
Birdsong has a great power to influence the human spirit and to bring joy even on an international scale. As global travellers, migrant birds don’t observe national boundaries, so we treasure their time spent with us here.
At one point in June 1910, Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary, invited Theodore Roosevelt (who had previously been US President and who was an enthusiastic bird watcher) to join him for a day of peace listening to the birdsong of his favourite spot in Hampshire. It would do our world much good if alł our political leaders listened to birdsong a little more often. Birds are very effective global peacemakers and bringers of joy.
Yes ‘they’re back‘. These birds are with us again, ‘the globe’s still working, the Creation’s still waking refreshed’ and ‘our summer’s still all to come‘!
Thanks for joining me.