9 July 2020

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Over the past 12 weeks, the lower levels of traffic, aircraft and other human noise has made many of us more attentive than usual to the sound of birdsong.

A pond in sunlight with trees in full leaf & a duck in the foregroundBut the rich texture and variety of the dawn chorus is notoriously difficult to reduce to words.

Browning wisely didn’t try—he left the thrush to do his own recapturing—but every morning at 05:58 or thereabouts on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Tweet of the Day’ some brave naturalist, broadcaster or writer has a go at describing the churrings and chatterings of their chosen species. Some attempt phonetic rendition, while others resort to metaphor, from the mundane to the fanciful. Here is nature writer Mark Cocker comparing the song of the wood warbler to a coin spinning round on a metal top:

So here’s your writing exercise: choose the song of a common bird and try to find ways of describing the sound:

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