From the point of view of natural sounds, it’s very quiet in the countryside. Chicks have fledged. The moult has started. Birds have hushed to a whisper.
There are still sounds in the landscape though, and I set out this morning to make a point of noticing them. First there’s a twitter of swallows circling over the river by the bridge. Then a moorhen hoot and the rattle of magpies at Snipe Meadow. A distant call from a red kite and the mew of a sparrowhawk as I reach the trees. Long tailed tits flit and chink through the willows on the far bank. There’s the ever-present murmur of woodpigeons.
What’s missing is the songbirds, the blackbirds, blackcaps and thrushes of a few weeks ago. No chaffinches, not even robins. There’s the occasional spinning call of a wren, but it’s more polite. The clash and clamour has gone.
At the millpond there are calls from grey wagtails and a quiet tinkle of goldfinches. A crow caws from the trees by the church. Further into the village there’s the tiny but delightful trill of a goldcrest in the branches of a yew tree. I would probably have missed that in all the sound and fury of a few weeks ago.
Walking down the field towards Assiter’s Spinney I stop and listen to the breeze in the leaves of a sycamore and a beech. I can just make out a skylark towards Glapthorn.
I step into the wood where I watched a kingfisher chick two weeks ago. Then there were loud calls from a wren and its young brood, not to mention the kingfisher’s parents and sibling. A songthrush had been trilling at top volume from a tree overhead – the kingfisher chick and I both tilted our heads up to listen to it.
Now it’s much quieter, but as I sit for a few minutes sounds start to come through. A bluetit cheeps. There’s a call that has me foxed till I make out the sawing of a great tit. A treecreeper whistles off to the left. There’s a soft alarm cluck of a blackbird behind me. I pick up a tawny owl feather and walk on through the woods. The undergrowth is shrinking, becoming drier and less green, but bright orange cuckoo pint shines out against the forest floor. Speckled wood butterflies flit among the shadows.
I miss the ebullient soundscape of the spring and early summer, but it couldn’t go on for ever. The range and volume of sounds will increase again as the migrants pass through on their way south. This has been a great season for wildlife – there’s plenty of sound and colour to look forward to in the next season too. It just needs more careful, attentive and appreciative listening.