Country mouse on the dawn chorus

Winchester Crown Court can be a dour place. As a barrister there, I find it’s brightened up by the ushers and clerks. One such is John Pearce, a former Customs Devonian with an encyclopaedic knowledge of local flora and fauna. A couple of years ago, we were discussing the beauty of the local Hampshire country to take my mind off an irascible judicial outburst. He mentioned the return of the nightingales. I was ashamed to admit I was unsure what a nightingale sounded like.

A week later, he gave me and the children a 6am introduction to the life-affirming glory of the song of these birds. It’s become an annual outing. What price the dawn chorus amid the infinite pageant of greens at first light in the rolling hills of England? There were whitethroats, blackcaps, wrens, robins, thrushes and the oft-overlooked blackbird, all playing second fiddle to Hardy’s ‘little brown bird’.

As Coleridge wrote: ‘…his song/Should make all nature lovelier, and itself be loved like nature!’ I recommend you set your alarm early on Saturday, walk out, stand still and observe your own two minutes’ silence which bird is which simply won’t matter.