Music is returning to my garden. Birds are tuning up for spring. I stick my head out of the back door into rain and wind and sky the colour of an oil-spill and hear the sweet, sharp sound of a dunnock, like two pieces of polystyrene being rubbed together, though the dunnocks’ song doesn’t make me wince, it makes me grin. Great-tits are teacher-teacher-ing, robins softly trill, their sound as watery as the winter sun and great spotted woodpeckers pik- pik like squeaky toys. My shoulders relax, my heart beat slows, my face muscles soften as I tilt my head in different directions to catch each song.
Blackbirds are back in numbers from wherever they’ve been hiding, though silent still. They’re playing three-a-side, dribbling apple pieces up and down the lawn. Starlings peck at past-their-sell-by-date mince pies, clicking and whistling like old men adjusting their hearing-aids .
During a winter bird survey yesterday,we shocked two woodcocks into a zig-zag, wing-whirring, brown-blur flight and chuckled at the site of a moorhen in a tree. There were also bullfinches, not the usual two or three but – what’s the collective noun for a group of bullfinches? A ‘plump’ of bullfinches perhaps, or, if you own an apple orchard, a ‘pest’ of bullfinches? Their soft, sad whistles gave them away.
Birds or, more particularly their songs, may be good for your health. There’s an interesting article on the internet - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22298779 called Surprising Uses for Birdsong. Recordings of birdsong have been installed in the corridors of Alder Hey Children’s hospital in Liverpool. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport uses birdsong in a quiet lounge where people can relax before their flight. The National Trust suggests people listen to birdsong for a few minutes a day to combat low moods. Radio Four’s Tweet of the Day is very popular. If you don’t hear it at 05.58 each morning, you can download the podcast. Or if like me, you can hardly wait for chiff-chaffs and willow warblers to arrive from Africa, go to the website and listen now! http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/totd