A recent post on the Transit Notes blog got me thinking about birds and birdsong. And, in a case of life imitating the blogosphere, it just so happens that something this morning woke me up unnaturally early. Half asleep, I staggered out of bed to see what was going on. On the landing, I was greeted by an excited cat and, somewhere in the air around my head, a flutter of wings. Sinbad had brought in a chaffinch. I seized the said Sinbad and shut him in the conservatory. I opened the landing window. Then I set about chasing the chaffinch. The sooner the poor thing could be set free into the sky the better. I finally caught it in the bathroom, cradling it gently in my hands. (If other members of the animal kingdom shared our intelligence I think they’d not know what to make of us: some of them we treat with extraordinary generosity and love, others we hunt down for no good reason and yet others we ship off in crowded lorries to abattoirs).
I was struck by just how small a creature a chaffinch is. It’s not often one actually holds one and one would prefer not to have to. The poor thing was so terrified that when I first held it out of the window, sat on my outstretched hand, it wouldn’t move. I withdrew my hand, cradling it as gently as I could, thinking, as I did, that if a 300-foot high giant held me in its hand however gently, I too would be terrified. I decided the best thing was simply to stretch out my hand a second time. This time it flew off.
The excitement of it all left me wide awake. I released Sinbad from his confinement. I turned on the laptop and made myself a cup of tea while it booted up. It felt like a good time to do the Guardian Quick Crossword. (It’s become something of an obsession with me. Not only is it a good crossword but also one where one can leave comments. The comments section has become something of an online community in its own right – the Quick Crossword Club, or QCC. But I digress).
Once I’d knocked off (OK, struggled a bit with) the crossword it occurred to me that if I took my sound recorder out into the garden I could capture the dawn chorus. I returned to the laptop and got bogged down in something or other online and returned some twenty minutes later. Here’s an excerpt…
Birds are intriguing. I find it intriguing that the descendants of the dinosaurs should sing. Intriguing, too, that their songs should be both complex and yet -as far as we know- lacking in any complex meaning, as we understand the word. The songs of birds should give us pause. We have a Hollywood-created idea of dinosaurs growling in a crude, carnivorous fashion, but did they sing, too?