Tweet of the Day

Since falling ill with ME, my symptoms have always been worst in a morning and though I wake around seven, it takes at least ninety minutes (sometimes two or three hours) for my symptoms to subside enough for me to get out of bed. My bedroom looks out over farmland and as I lie in bed each morning waiting to be well enough to start my day, I listen to birds singing in the trees and hedgerows.

This past year or more, BBC radio has hosted a programme called ‘Tweet of the Day’, using recorded birdsong to help listeners identify the different species participating in their neighbourhood’s dawn chorus. So far (on the extremely infrequent occasions I find myself listening to radio 4) the recordings of puffins, egrets and curlews have been a little too exotic for the birds in my back garden but trying to distinguish between the different calls of birds has given me a new appreciation for the variety of birdlife on my doorstep.

In recent months however, the birds have been competing with a whole new kind of dawn chorus as work progresses on a long-awaited link-road that will pass 100 metres from my bedroom window. Six days a week, the work starts up at seven in the morning and the high pitched ‘beep-beep’ and deep throaty ‘ark-ark’ of heavy machinery sounds very much like strange mechanical birds demarcating their territory. I can cope with the ‘vehicle-reversing’ bird. I don’t mind the ‘please-stand-clear’ bird. But I must confess that when it comes to the ‘cleans-the-mud-off-its-metal-beak-by-banging-it-on-the-tarmac-outside-of-my-window-first-thing-on-a-Saturday-morning’ bird, I struggle to summon any kind of fondness.

It is an awe-inspiring sight to watch flocks of swirling seagulls filling the sky as they swoop to snatch up worms from fresh-dug mounds of earth whenever the diggers break new ground.

Around this time of year, I normally watch a pair of swans raise their cygnets on the canal-side. They swim up and down between the narrow boats and sit together in the sunshine on the grassy bank. The more intrepid will embark on lengthy walks across the field, waddling its way through a herd of startled cows, not stopping till it reaches the railway a quarter of a mile away. One memorable morning, I heard my carer scream as she opened the living room curtains to find the swan peering back at her from the other side of the glass, eying up the pot plants on my windowsill. I watched it all morning as it sunbathed on the grass, moving every hour to keep ahead of the shadows that crept across the lawn as the sun passed overhead.

Eventually one of my neighbours, an elderly gentleman, went out to try and chase it away. I watched him noisily shoo the swan across the garden, waving his arms and brandishing his walking stick. Halfway to the gate, the somewhat startled swan appeared to come to its senses and turning around with wings outstretched, started chasing the even more startled man. It was better than any Laurel and Hardy sketch and I couldn’t help but laugh at the comic scene unfolding before me.

Since the pile-driver arrived last month to plant the foundations for a bridge over the canal I sadly haven’t seen either of the swans. I hope they’ve just moved further down the bank to get away from the noise and that it won’t put them off returning to their usual spot next year when the machinery will have moved on.

It seems the swans are not the only birds the new road has displaced. Since the road works began I have regularly heard hooting in the middle of the night. In seven years in this flat I have never heard an owl hoot despite often being awake at unsociable hours so can only conclude it has left its normal habitat because of the road. It has proven a comforting sound to hear another living creature on those all-too-frequent nights when I lie awake and in pain because of my illness. I have no doubt that local rodents vehemently disagree.

At seven every evening, the mechanical birds fall silent and I’m relieved to remove the earplugs I must now wear through the day to have any chance of resting and managing my symptoms or being able to concentrate on other activities.

While I still can’t tell their voices apart (despite the BBC’s best efforts) I sit with a cup of tea each night before bed, listening to sparrows, thrushes and finches as they sing me a lullaby.

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16 Responses to Tweet of the Day

  1. quiall says:

    What a wonderful glimpse into your world!

  2. Bird song really is the most wonderful sound in the world. I’m laughing at the swan and your neighbour, what an image! Go swan!! I too hope the pair will be back when the trucks move on. At present I have a family of pheasants using my garden as a shortcut between fields. Their call is something of a shriek, haha

    • They were chasing it through the wrong gate, away from the canal towards the street which I think may have been the reason for the swan’s sudden change of direction. It was incredibly funny. A friend of mine recently moved to the countryside and tells me a pheasant comes and sits on her bedroom windowsill every morning shrieking until she gets out of bed to give it some breakfast.

  3. Excellent look into your yard’s bird life. I particularly enjoyed the “Laurel and Hardy” shenanigans between your gentleman neighbor and the swan! Priceless. As far as bird calls is concerned, here in South Florida, my house backs up to a lake (really small – some people call it a “pond”) and we have many different birds that come to grace us with their presence. One in particular is called a “Limpkin.” I don’t know why, but that is his official name. His call is a shriek that will wake you up before dawn and continue for a long while, so that you cannot fall back asleep. We are so fortunate, aren’t we?

    • Yes, we are very lucky. I had to look up limpkins on Google as we don’t have them here in the UK. The first thing that came up was ‘Linkin Park’, a somewhat different sound to the one you are referring to.

      The shriek they make (limpkins, not Linkin Park) sounds very like the seagulls we have in huge numbers here (I live within sight of the coast) but have never heard a bird make a rasping sound like that before. Really interesting to catch a glimpse of another place; a little bit of armchair travelling. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Miss P says:

    I’m so glad to hear you have so much wildlife on your doorstep. I love that you usually see the Mummy & the Daddy Ducks together with their babies – it’s so nice that the parents stay together and the babies are so cute. :o)

  5. bertieandme says:

    What a lovely post 🙂 As I read it I was listening to a Song Thrush sing its evening melody perched on my neighbour’s TV aerial on the roof! I’m lucky in that I live in a village and am surrounded by bird song (I have to sleep with the window shut in summer, because if it’s open I’m woken at 4am by a deafening dawn chorus!). After years spent lying listening to bird song as I’ve been ill I can now make out sparrows, robins, chaffinch, swallows, blackbirds and song thrushes but that’s about my limit. I’ve gotten into photography in the last 3 years and now take pictures of the birds in my garden (I currently have a Robin’s nest – she is sitting on eggs atm; a Blackbird’s nest – they have successfully hatched 2 chicks which have now flown; and 4 Sparrows are using my bird boxes). I have a new appreciation of nature. Jak x

    • Sound idyllic. I’m glad you are able to make the most of the wildlife on your doorstep and that it has led to new interests. It always amazes me how much noise even a handful of the smallest birds can make at four in the morning!

  6. A lovely series of thoughts about birdsong. I readjusted my 7.a.m. radio alarm call from 7 to 6.55 so I can hear Tweet of the Day. I hope your mechanical birds go soon

    • Thank you. This morning I actually recognised the birdsong on Tweet of the Day for the very first time. I hadn’t even heard of a ‘Lesser White Throat’ before today. They may well make a twitcher out of me yet. Failing that I may just become an expert in heavy machinery.

  7. Looking under the Covers says:

    Lovely insight to your morning but I sure hope the mechanical birds leave soon as I can imagine they aren’t very pleasant to listen to 😉

    • Thank you. They weren’t too bad to begin with when they were a few hours a day at the far end of the field, but each week they seem to grow in size and number, work longer hours and move ever closer. I just keep reminding myself that the more they get done in a day the sooner they will finish and move on.

      • Looking under the Covers says:

        That is true – I hope the workers actually works and aren’t just standing by the side as you often see hehe

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