I’ve written before about the ‘screaming frenzy’ that descends on my part of Berkshire for 3 months each summer, and how it lifts my heart to see these noisy, riotous seasonal visitors return.
And believe it or not, screaming frenzy is actually the real collective term for the phenomenon that is the colony of swifts that come to my neck of the woods.
And this year, they’ve come a bit earlier, so I now have the delights of the Maidenhead swift colony super charging up and down our streets with their screeching aeronautics and acrobatics.
We still have nature to amaze and amuse us and, hopefully, help keep us sane
What's in a song?
If you have never had the chance to study nature and wildlife before, then surely this enforced, stay at home, lockdown provides the perfect opportunity.
And with the lack of traffic and air travel, the whole hustle and bustle background noise of ‘modern life’ has simply disappeared, leaving room for nature to burst forward.
I have a colleague who has been troubled by birds nesting in the gutter of their top floor apartment but when I asked what they were, they couldn’t tell me.
However, each bird has its own unique song so simply listening closely and hearing more than just a ‘noise’ will tell you who has decided to share ‘their’ space with yours.
I am a complete amateur twitcher but even I can usually tell the main types of birds from their different songs.
If you can’t tell the difference between a sparrow and a blackbird, here’s a quick guide to the songs of the 15 most common in the UK. I suspect my colleague is living under house sparrows, but I could be wrong.
The value in listening
I’m not the only one advocating the benefits of listening to nature as there are several news outlets such as the BBC showing how an interest in nature during lockdown can actually help with our own wellbeing and mental health, including this one on the BBC under the title "Can nature help improve our mood?"
Or the Huffington Post writing about how nature is helping us 'Brits' get through lockdown.
So, whether it is from your apartment window, in your garden, or whilst you are out for your daily exercise, it is worth taking a moment and appreciating the beauty of nature.
It’s also worth noting the clear might skies we are having at the moment, which is ideal for star gazing.
If you’ve never had the time to get into astronomy before, then now is the ideal moment and this link to the Royal Astronomical Society should serve as a basic guide.
I’ve also managed to rediscover a delightful recording of the extraordinary duet featuring the famous cellist, Beatrice Harrison playing to a nightingale in her Surrey garden, with the bird responding with its own song.
Recorded in May 1924, it is amazing that this is now, nearly 100 years old, but you can clearly hear the bird, who would return each night at the same time, joining in with the music.
Also in the same BBC report is another recording of nightingale song, but this one much more poignant and timely as we have just passed the 75th year since VE day.
This time the BBC recorded the same garden but without the cello, in May 1942.
What they didn’t realise until they started recording is that 197 Allied bombers were about to fly overhead on their way to raids in Mannheim. The BBC sound recordist also caught them returning with 11 missing.
On that rather sobering note, I’m going to make a cup of tea and sit outside watching today’s aerial display from the swifts and thank heaven that, whilst life is difficult at the moment with this cursed pandemic, we still have friends, family and communications to keep us safe, as long as we are sensible … and we still have nature to amaze and amuse us and, hopefully, help keep us sane.
Russell Jones is content and communications manager