Wednesday 15 April 2009

Tune in to Spring

Following a thunderstorm in the night, I'm wondering if it was a mistake to mention the butterflies yesterday. All that flapping of wings can have untold consequences. It's probably fortunate that, as an Order, the Lepidoptera don't eat beans.

The storm roiled and rolled in at dawn. From my disturbed slumbers, I could hear the blackbirds, against all odds, rejoicing the new day. Hardy's darkling thrush must have opened one eye, peered at his alarm clock, thought better of it and gone back to sleep. Some days it's difficult to struggle into the blast-beruffled plume.

As an amateur orthinologist, or word botcher (thanks, Humph, you're sadly missed), I do find the dawn chorus is a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, it is a sound picture of consummate beauty, focussing the hope of life into a joyful ensemble, which is sung with a death-defying passion that few of us will ever experience for ourselves. On the other hand, I can't ignore it. Tuned in to birdsong, as birders tend to be, I cannot help myself. Each individual species and often several birds of the same species can be identified, and I invariably strive to do just that. It's a mean and petty regret, for the chorus is a wonderful spectacle to behold. I must try to rediscover the wonder in listening to the whole orchestra again, not each soloist.

It being Spring, the air is full of song from an ever-increasing avian cast list. Personally, I don't look for the "one swallow" or have my pen poised to write to The Times upon hearing the first cuckoo. The siren call that heralds my Spring is the fluid cadence of the willow warbler. The descending notes give a warmth to the still-chilly April days, promising that, ok, Sumer might not be Icumen In, but it's jolly well not too far away.

The blackcaps, too, are belting out their flutey burbling song, which means it won't be long until the garden warblers arrive, with their call that is ever so similar but just a little bit raspier. Ah, heady days indeed for the uptight naturalist.

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