Songs of the Countryside

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The BBC weatherlord predicted heavy rain this weekend, so I thought I’d squeeze in a brisk walk before being marooned indoors until Monday. I’m fortunate enough to live in the South Downs National Park, which means local maps are criss-crossed with all manner of exciting pathways for the humble pedestrian. My feet decided to take me two miles across the hills to a little village near our town, a walk that is particularly good for spotting birds of prey and mammals.

While bright butterflies and attention-seeking garden birds often make themselves seen, I’ve found that some wildlife is absolutely impossible to spot, although easy enough to hear. I’m therefore giving myself a gentle education in bird songs, because I can always hear a greenfinch before I see one, and how many people actually locate that woodpecker, drilling into our minds with contempt?

Now I can identify a growing handful of birds by their songs, and it makes birding much more challenging, but ultimately more rewarding! The song thrush came as a slight disappointment, believing as I did that we had an exciting collection of birds hooting about, when really it was just one being really deceitful…

Despite my newfound love for the songs of the countryside, I still managed to spot a few delightful species hopping from spring to summer:

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In a twist of fate, I was also recently sent this book by the kind people at Sound Approach, a publishing house founded by Mark Constantine, the founder of my ultimate favourite cosmetics company Lush! Undiscovered Owls is a beautifully illustrated book about the world of owls and their calls. While I’m obviously mainly interested in British owls for identification reasons, it was wonderful to read about owls around the globe too. Not only does the book feature beautiful pictures and descriptions of familiar and rare owls alike, it opens up the realm of sound recording and the science of bird song in a very accessible way.

And the best bit? It comes with sound recordings on CD! No more reading archaic linguistic representations of bird calls (chichichichichit springs to mind..?). There’s a good reason I listen to Radio 4’s Tweet of the Day – I simply don’t have the imagination to try and identify bird song by strange nonsensical words. I think the only way you can learn is to listen, and as most of us can’t live in the middle of a woodland all day and night (sigh), modern technology seems to be an excellent educator.

Now if they could just make one for every bird genre, that would be most useful!

One last bit of exciting news! Throughout June I’ll be taking part in the Wildlife Trust’s amazing campaign 30 Days Wild, to encourage us all to do something wild every day for a month! I’m going to be writing a weekly summary on the blog, so keep an eye out for all the weird ways I can think of enjoying the outdoors. I was also featured in the Independent today – have a read!

Undiscovered Owls was published last month and is available here.  Highly recommended!

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