Bathtime


Picture the scene if you will: me lying in the bath cocooned in the enveloping warmth of a copious volume of soothing H²O, soap suds tickling my nose and the pleasant aroma of some pine scented gunk filling the air. Actually that may be too strong an image for those of you with a sensitive disposition, so you can substitute one of me lying on the sofa if you like. Or perhaps better still don't think of me at all and just read on.

Anyway, as I was on the verge of drifting off I realised I had been subconsciously listening to a robin whose fluting spring song drifted in through the open window. As I tuned in to this charmingly understated serenade, I thought that surely I could hear another bird answering our garden resident from a neighbouring territory. Yes, there it was again. Straining my ears further I'm pretty sure a third was joining the party, underscoring his right to a patch further along our suburban oasis. No doubt there were others out of immediate earshot singing to delineate unseen lines between territories. And further afield again others would be proclaiming their presence; all around for miles in every direction hundreds, nay thousands, of robins would be singing on this early spring afternoon proclaiming rights of ownership to their very own patch of heaven on earth. Radial lines of connectivity formed in my imagination spreading out far and wide, linking all the nations singing robins to the little bird humbly singing a few metres from where I wallowed.

Then a chaffinch chimed in with its short crescendo of cascading notes. And I mused. That chaffinch will now utter its song pretty much non-stop throughout the spring; its collection of sweet notes will be delivered once every few seconds for hours without break until June. Over the coming months therefore, that little bird will sit on favoured perches in our garden uttering his humble tumble hundreds of thousands of times. And every chaffinch in adjacent territories will be doing the same. Note perfect, clear and resonant. Amazing.

I could just make out a song thrush in the distance stridently puncturing the air with confident notes. It was making sure we all got his message by shouting a repertoire of fluty phrases twice or thrice as is the hallmark of the species. I fell to remembering how once in the soft, still twilight of a May evening whilst I was sitting by my pond letting the stresses of the day lift and tease away like early evening mists, a songthrush came down from its lofty singing post to pour forth its beautiful song just a few feet from where I sat. The sound was so pure and so loud that I thought for a few seconds a nightingale had miraculously made its way onto the garden list, but no, it was just a humble song thrush. I sat mesmerised by this wonderful chorister until with the gathering gloom he gave way to the night. That few minutes still ranks as one of the best wildlife experiences of my life simply because it was only me, a younger less weary me, and the bird. No other sound, no other people, just the perfect tune of a songthrush and the sweet scent of honeysuckle.

The more I listened now the more I heard: a dunnock piping forlornly, no doubt from under the privet hedge; a wood pigeon wooing his mate, one of the pair I observed nibbling one another's ear coverts earlier in the day; a collared dove with its short braying flight note that I pictured flying into the ornamental fir where I know a nest is being built; a great tit chattering from somewhere close to the house perhaps inspecting one of the nest boxes amidst the ivy. And lording over all the laughter like cries of lesser black back gulls, chasing each other over the rooftops as they pair up for another season.

There has been great loss and sadness in my life recently, but with the mellow gold of a late afternoon sun slanting through the blinds, the twittering of the birds and the gentle ambience of spring seeping into my soul things, for a time, seem better.

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