Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dawn Chorus

I have joined the RSPB.  Much as you might attract a hedgehog with a bowl of cat food, I am easily attracted to a promotional table by really cute animal pictures.  The lady seemed quite happy to have an audience of one who was quite happy to listen.  My trolley of paid goods had nothing frozen and about to defrost so I had time for her to complete the sales pitch.

I was up at the crack of dawn, or just before it seeing as there was no bird song.  I was up because it was nagging at me that no one had put out the bin the precious night.  A quick mental estimate of how much was in the bin and whether it could wait another two weeks had kept me sleeping less than soundly.  “Use it or lose it!” might be applied to all sorts of things but it certainly applies to the bin collections.  Once upon a time it was a weekly collection.  Now it is fortnightly and there were mumblings of reducing it further to once every three weeks.  Hygienically it sounds like a plan for disaster.

So, yes, I was awake very early.  I decided to put out the bin and then go back to bed.  With what had kept me awake most of the night dealt with I anticipated I would sleep well.

We used to keep the bin at the front of the house out of sheer laziness. The neighbours didn't complain, but I didn't want to give them one more reason to wish they, or we, lived elsewhere. It’s quite a hike down the back garden, out of the gate, around the block, past the front of the house and around the corner. It’s not a quiet trip either.  I dare say that I woke up one or two light sleepers but no one poked a head out of a window to tell me to keep the noise down. I had remembered to unlock the front door so the journey home wasn’t so long.

As I had my hand on the door handle the first bird peeped or warbled. 

I was in time for nature’s great concert!

I was already wrapped up warm – big coat over flannelette nightie.  I sat one the bench underneath our front window and settled down to listen.  The sky was light grey ribbons on a darker grey.  The moon was a pale smudge wrapped up in dark clouds.

We all have this thing about the good old days being better.  I remember dawn choruses which were very noisy ones.  It was like switching the birds on or something and everything joining in. Perhaps I just didn’t wait long enough.  It wasn’t really a choir performance, just a series of solos. I wondered if the choir-master bird had slept in, or with so many birds on holiday in warmer climes, they had agreed to tone it down or give it a miss altogether.

It did occur to me that there were just not as many birds as there used to be.  Human beings were building houses and taking away precious habitats.  Other human beings had given up on gardens and paved over grass and flower borders to create a space for the car. Yes, it’s entirely possible that there are less birds.

I gave it a good half hour.  Dark grey sky morphed into light grey sky with a few light blue ribbons.  No rosy glow on the horizon.  I went back in, abandoned going back to bed in favour of a cup of tea and a quiet time.  

It occurred to me – what a wonderful way to start a day – with singing!  Imagine if the first sound you make in the morning wasn’t a groan or a well-aimed swear word at the alarm clock or even the deep rumble of flatulence.

I don’t think we sing enough as a species.  Birds have definitely got it right on this one. Maybe we think we have nothing to sing about but perhaps in the singing we discover what it is.

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