Last night I read BSAG's post "Listening for the return of spring" in which she outlines an almost irrational fear of never hearing birdsong again:
"...part of my difficulty in expressing how I felt was that I was deeply embarrassed about admitting to these fears. It seemed to me a ridiculously archaic, pre-scientific folk belief, like believing that the sun will not rise tomorrow."
She then reiterates her love for birdsong and how it, in particular, grants "precious contact with nature in urban areas".
There is indeed something magical about birdsong, almost mystical. It has the ability to transport you away from your current environment, get you out of your head.
I always recall a school trip when I was around 12 years old, not long after my parents had split up, and I was incredibly nervous about being away from home overnight. We stayed in a youth hostel (I think it was four to a room in bunk beds) and to say I didn't sleep well would be an understatement. I lay in the darkness awaiting the new day that would ultimately see me return home but, as dawn approached, the birds began their morning song and I can remember being transfixed by its beauty forgetting my worries. How so many different creatures could blend so perfectly into a single chorus despite all doing their own thing; it was like an avian jazz session where each would take a solo, playing their variant on a theme but still an element of a whole that was so much more than the sum of its parts.
A colleague being off sick today meant an earlier than usual start, leaving the house before 5am to catch a different train to my normal commute. Even at this time, hours before dawn, I was serenaded by the sounds of scattered birdsong. I listen out for robins in particular as there is something so emotive about their call, especially at this time of year, something so grounding. They are also among the first birds to start the dawn chorus.
I'm usually aware of the birdsong as I walk to the train station each morning but, no doubt, often take it for granted. Reading the post last night reminded me to appreciate its delights even on a dark, drizzly morning that couldn't have felt any further from being Christmas Eve.
It made me wonder what if there were no more birds, how silent would it be? How empty? But then I also considered how, at certain hours, it should be silent but that light pollution caused by our ever expanding urban sprawl has left our towns and cities in a persistent nighttime twilight confusing, or even destroying, the circadian rhythms of man and beast alike.
What strikes me now about that school trip so many years ago is the contrast. Yes, the dawn chorus was truly a beauty to witness but it was made more so by the silence that preceded it, a silence so rare some thirty something years later. A silence that is good for the soul.