Bird Watching (UK) - - Songbirds Dawn Chorus -

Wrens pack an in­cred­i­ble amount of punch into their ubiq­ui­tous, loud, ex­plo­sive, light­ning-fast trilled songs It is worth re­mem­ber­ing that this con­gre­ga­tion of song­sters en­gaged in cho­rus to at­tract a mate and pro­tect a ter­ri­tory have trav­elled far and wide to ar­rive at this scene. A huge va­ri­ety of song­sters in­clud­ing the ever cap­ti­vat­ing Red­start, whose ditty mir­rors its rest­less de­meanor, have jour­neyed thou­sands of miles from sub-sa­ha­ran Africa and faced many dan­gers for a chance to breed. The means of nav­i­gat­ing these huge dis­tances are still be­ing dis­cov­ered by sci­ence – lat­est the­o­ries sug­gest birds use a com­bi­na­tion of the earth’s mag­netic field, vis­ual land­scape mark­ers and the sun and stars. Nev­er­the­less, as a fel­low in­hab­i­tant on this vast blue mar­ble, I can­not help ad­mir­ing the will and re­silience these an­i­mals em­body to sur­vive, con­se­quently pro­vid­ing us with this au­ral de­light among our parks, gar­dens and wood­lands at this time of year. As an aero­plane passes over­head, I am aware the at­mos­phere on the ground is now alive with bird­song. Cas­cad­ing notes of Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Gar­den War­blers, Song Thrushes and Robins fall from the trees set against a back­drop of coo­ing of Wood­pi­geons. Morn­ing light now bathes the fields and cop­pices in daf­fodil-gold sun­shine as I start my re­turn walk back home and a Wren’s ju­bi­lant song from a nearby Black­thorn bush com­pletes the wood­land sym­phony. As bird­watch­ers, we spend most of our time pre­oc­cu­pied with a bird’s shape, form, size and plumage. “Did you see much?” I am sure is a fa­mil­iar in­quiry for many. The vis­ual realm is the nexus of our hobby and yet, re­count­ing this dawn cho­rus ex­pe­ri­ence, not once did I feel com­pelled to raise my binoc­u­lars to my eyes to con­firm what my ears had al­ready reg­is­tered. For some of us, the au­ral world is the only ref­er­ence and guide for the wildlife around us. Blind and vis­ually im­paired bird­ers are grow­ing in num­ber, as more peo­ple are drawn to the many ben­e­fits this pas­time pro­vides. No more so than in Amer­ica, where lo­cal groups are crop­ping up all over the coun­try invit­ing teenagers, par­ents and chil­dren to start ‘bird­ing by ear’. Mem­bers grow ac­cus­tomed to the bird’s song and call in the class­room and then ven­ture out into the wild for walks, hikes and bird counts. Donna Posont, who leads a team of Michi­gan blind bird­watch­ers and is some­what of a pi­o­neer in this field, says most of her en­joy­ment is: “Watch­ing the kids gain con­fi­dence and self­es­teem with smiles on their faces, see­ing them­selves as bird­ers, the same as every­one else.” Catch­ing a few fi­nal notes be­fore I de­part this theatre of song, it strikes me that the dawn cho­rus, while hint­ing at a species, an in­di­vid­ual, a lo­ca­tion, more­over con­nects us to a more po­tent force, a timeless qual­ity – ephemeral free­dom from the hu­man con­di­tion. Gone are the wor­ries of the day, our at­ten­tion solely be­long­ing to those pre­cious few hours. Just as the par­tially-sighted bird­ers find com­fort in the sounds of the wild, I urge you this spring, in the words of Robert Llynd “to be­come part of the si­lence, to truly see the birds around you.” Black­bird, one of the first singers in the dawn cho­rus A Black­cap, adding a war­ble to the Black­birds’ flute sec­tion

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