'I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out 'til sundown, for going out, I found was really going in.' John Muir

I've seen the top of Everest (from a long way off), smelled the breath of a whale (from way too close) and lived on a boat in Greece (for a few years), but I continue to experience some of my most precious moments right outside my backdoor.

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Friday, 19 September 2014

Night Bird

Autumn is a time of movement, leaves flutter, conkers thud, spiders speed across the carpet, birds come and go.  So far it’s been kind of slow and mellow and filled with mist and robin's song.  Even some chiff-chaffs have
loitered and I saw a high swarm of swallows the other day, reluctant to leave whilst the weather’s soft and insect clouds linger. 

Outside, a couple of robins are trying to out-sing each other.  One warbles, there’s a second’s silence before another trills - louder. This birdie X Factor is lovely for me, sitting on the step nursing a cup of tea, but it’s a serious business for them, whoever wins will get my garden and a steady supply of worms, berries and the odd bit of cheese.  I watch one in our rowan tree, head thrown back, elderberry eyes glistening, red throat pulsing, spilling song from its needle beak.  He sings at 5 a.m. and is there again at dusk when I close the blinds. Of course, it could be a ‘she’ they both look the same and both sing in winter apparently.
These robins are lucky, it’s peaceful here and there aren’t many street lights, though they may be fooled by the moon into thinking it is daylight every now and again.  I heard a robin singing at 3 a.m. during the September Super Moon. City birds aren’t so lucky.  Streetlights make it seem like daylight, their body clocks get confused and they wake up.  Once awake, they sing and when one sings, the others join in, to defend their territories.  And as if that weren't confusing enough, a study in Sheffield found that birds in noisy areas were more likely to sing at night as their songs could not be heard during the day.  It seems that birds are having to adapt their behaviour to cope with modern life.  They can’t hang black-out blinds and wear wax ear plugs like me. Singing burns calories and such a tiny bird needs to conserve energy, especially during the winter.  Small birds need their sleep, maybe not the 8 hours I need but I’m sure it can’t be healthy for them to stay up singing most of the night.