In mid-February I sat at my dining room table finalising a chapter on birdsong whilst being periodically serenaded by the trilling stutter of a Wren that had taken up residence in my back garden. I hadn’t realised but every time that it sang, I stopped. I stopped and looked for it and most importantly – I smiled. It became a familiar sound and a sound I almost came to expect while I was writing. It made me feel stabilised and focused, this localised melody became my familiarity, my own garden Wren anchoring me in the present.
I flicked back through my notes and came across a comment that somebody had left me on a forum. It simply said “nothing chills me out like the sound of a curlew.” I thought back to the last time I had heard a Curlew myself. It was a few weeks before at Blakeney Freshmarsh in Norfolk. A haunting whistle that ghosted across the bleak and open landscape. A sound that is instantly synonymous with the coast and I think it’s fair to say that the coast is synonymous with relaxation.
If I had to choose a bird call or song to signify the coastal flats of Norfolk then it would be a Curlew. It then dawned on me that certain bird songs and calls can evoke memories and they can also represent specific things such as; changes in seasons, habitats or even specific life events.
I remembered a day when I had a really stressful event at work that manifested as a miniature episodic breakdown. My default response was to get outside in the fresh air and go for a walk so I went to a small area of heathland I know well. As I stood in the middle of the heath I watched a passerine fly up from the floor and high into the sky above me.
It flew up so high that it was soon a distant dot in the blue sky and then I heard it. The first time you hear a Woodlark sing is a magical moment that stays with you. It’s so difficult to describe, melancholic yet vitalising, a descending staccato of piped notes that lift and swirl in a flurry of sweet melody. I was awestruck by its beauty and clarity; this was the loveliest birdsong I had ever heard. I attached a meaning to this song and it became my ‘sunny spring day on the heath’ song; repeated every spring since.