Wednesday, January 11, 2012

birds singing at night.

It was Dec 22nd when I first heard it, at around 3 am, i.e. around 5 hours before sunrise. It was a sleepy sort of hushed chorus of low tweeting, evidently a whole treeful of birds and of several species. It consisted of twittering rather than full song. At one point even a crow chimed in, possibly saying "shut the fuck up".

And I've heard this middle-of-the-night singing several times since I moved back to Frome, where my bedroom backs onto waste ground with trees and a railway, always at around 2-4 a.m. Perhaps it has always been there but I never noticed it until I moved back from my six months sojourn at a house in West Swindon where there was practically no birdsong because there happened to be no trees near to my window. (West Swindon, I want to emphasize, is on the whole a distinctly treeish place.)

This seems to be well-known behaviour. Usually it is robins (some people have speculated that urban robins are confused by light pollution).

It particularly occurs around the winter solstice.

So Marcellus, in Hamlet, was reporting a genuine midwinter phenomenon:

Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Savior’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairly takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is the time.

Perhaps, too, it has some connection with T.S. Eliot's mysterious "midwinter spring".

The other noises I often hear are foxes barking (e.g. last night around 23:30) and the whistling of Little Owls (but generally not at this time of year). The trains make loud shrieking and grinding noises, which I usually sleep through. At some time between 05:45 and 06:30 my Polish neighbour drives off in his van, so that I begin every day feeling like a lazy git.



At 3:14 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yip I went for answers there yo and got this Robin rubbish.
1am in Birmingham in January and the birds are singing loud like its day break. I am aged 52 and have listened to birds all my life and the earliest I usually hear is 4am in summertime,
This is anew thing that started about a year ago and is very strange indeed.

At 9:07 am, Blogger Michael Peverett said...

Others have said so too. I don't know what to think about that, but I'll keep gathering info.

I have to respect the knowledge of my bird-expert friend who summed up her views in a single word: "Normal".

And "Robins".


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