Singing Lessons

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?



6 thoughts on “Singing Lessons

  1. This is exquisite stuff. House sparrows are there all the way through and there are blackbirds in the background. Here and there chaffinch and collared dove – and others that I can’t identify.
    A glorious sound. Your recording equipment must be good.

  2. Lovely sound. And what a great idea – singing dinosaurs. I am thinking now that I must be very unimaginative, because I’ve known for years that birds are supposed to be descended from them – yet I never thought of them singing. I suppose their song (if they’d had one) would have been at a very different pitch. Come to think of it I have not heard bird song slowed down.

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