FOND MEMORIES: BIRDSONG
My grandparents lived in north London, close to Alexandra Palace and when I was younger I was amazed by how much more wildlife they seemed to get in their garden compared to mine. Where my home in Kent was surrounded by arable fields, my grandparents were close to several little pockets of ancient woodland and heath and as such had tawny owls, woodpeckers and loads of exotic species that we never saw away from town. I remember the absolute thrill of seeing grey squirrels racing around the old oak tree in the garden.
(Several years ago I bought eight acres of old woodland in Essex as a place to take my children and hopefully inspire them. Consequently grey squirrels and I have since fallen out. We are now enemies. But don’t get me started.) One day my Nan told me a secret she’d kept for 20 years. In spring 1961, she read in the local paper that redstarts had been spotted nesting in Alexandra Park for the first time. She had never seen a redstart and lived close enough that she hoped she might finally see one.
She got to see one the very next morning when her cat, knowing she was a keen birdwatcher, proudly dropped one at her feet.
The next week the paper reported that, sadly, the redstarts didn’t appear to be nesting at the palace any more.
There is a lot of birdsong in Detectorists, most of it recorded on the day while we were filming. In some scenes I can hear three or four different species – it’s incredible to think they were hiding close by.
Other birdcalls I added in the sound mix, just because I could and because I thought a handful of people might enjoy identifying them.
So yes, listen out in the second series for, among others, a wheatear, turtle doves and, of course, a redstart.
ABOVE What happened to Alexandra Park’s redstarts? BELOW Wheatears and turtle doves can be heard on the show’s soundtrack