SFN Journal – Autumn Almanac: Silence of the Birds

July 16th 2017 – Silence of the birds

beech tree with birch trees in the woodlandThe weather has been hot, close and suppressive. I have taken to retreating to the cool shade of the woods when out for a lunch-break walk. Luckily the plant nursery where I work is bordered by woodland, filled with a myriad of textures and colours and illuminated by a soft leaf-filtered light. Here solemn beech trees are chaperoned by silver birches, a deep layer of fallen leaves cushions each step. In spring this wood is alive with the calls and songs of birds, ringing from the tree-tops, but now, their voices are quietened. For many species, the challenge of the breeding season has come to a close, their broods are fledged and discovering independence, and it is a time of recovery and rebuilding energy reserves. Late summer is the time of year that many birds moult; shedding the worn feathers that have become damaged or battered by the stresses of successfully rearing young, and re-growing new plumage in preparation for migration or for winter survival.

Vulnerable and weary, moulting birds skulk in the ether of hedgerows, or keep to the undergrowth of the wood, wasting little energy of declaring their presence in loud song.

This week the silence of the birds has been very noticeable. A roving party of tits kept in contact with a flurry of squeaks, and a stock dove cooed softly, but otherwise all is quiet. The robin has lost its voice, the song thrush has taken a break from his role as ‘town crier’, and I haven’t heard a blackbird in days.

The heat, combined with the absence of bird song gives an atmosphere of suppression, a heavy cloak of summer.

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