NatureWatch: The language of birdsong
Alice Bonifacio, environmental campaigner
- Credit: PA Images
I’ve been learning a new language recently: Birdsong.
At this time of year, the dawn chorus is a familiar pluming of avian chatter: Great tits calling out ‘teacher’ overlap with blue tits, with their high pitched ‘sipsi’ followed by low trills. The sweet small rattle of a wren is replaced by the swooping whistles of a murmuration of starlings.
There are several parks in Hackney tipped for the best experience of such sounds, including Springfield and Abney. And yet it is walking down the street that tests my language skills best. Daily routines too are marked by different birds: Returning home from work, a blackbird’s rich and fruity song plays out amongst the rooftops whilst a neighbour’s hedgerow bursts with the sound of sparrows.
Perhaps it is from spending so much time indoors that my ears have become attuned to the smallest of sounds. A common mindfulness technique is to embrace and pick out each one: the passing of a car giving way to a lawnmower or children playing in the street.
One morning as I cycle to work, I am able to discern the strident tones of a robin over traffic. I think of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and how robins, having ingested chemicals intended to regulate crop growth, can no longer be heard. I hope our increased appreciation for natural surroundings through this period will enhance our awareness of these integrated sounds, and better aid our understanding of how to care for them.