Listening to Bird Song

Not just the common ones,
the songs that we all know –
a mallard duck which quacks,
the crow – it caws, tawny owls
that hoot – tu-wit, tu-woo.
A pigeon coos, the herring gull
delights in screaming raucously.
The cuckoo sings his name.

But there are others, common too,
whose songs, if I can train my ears,
are separate, distinct;
the robin, thin and soft;
I might see him
especially if I wear red.
A wren, from around knee-high,
loud and with a trill,
a dunnock, burbling
from deep in the bushes,
and, of course, long-tailed tits;
I can hear them from out my window
as they arrive, mob-handed,
in the tree outside and chatter.

I will take a picture if I can
but mostly I will listen,
for I want to learn
to listen,
to listen to bird song.

This poem owes everything to Simon Barnes. It was his book – ‘Birdwatching with your eyes closed’ which inspired me to listen in the first place.


44 Responses to “Listening to Bird Song”

  1. David,

    I haven’t been pacing up and down, honestly!!

    I love this delightful entrance you have made into 2012.

    This has such a lovely crisp freshness to it. It is very easy to “hear the birds singing”, but to really listen, that is another thing altogether and something, quite honestly, I have thought little about
    until recently.

    And thank you so much for introducing me to SIMON Barnes! I, too, want to learn to listen to birdsong; maybe we can listen together sometime.

    Love you loads



  2. Hi David,

    What a nice poem 🙂 I too love to listen to birds singing.
    Birds tell us everything we can’t say in words I suppose. I love the ones that start in the early morning and those birds who yap in the evening. Larks and such! Black birds. We can try but never be such good musicians!

    So if you wear red, your eyes improve? (Pondering about that)

    Simon Barnes, is he a poet? The title of his book is poetical anyway.

    Have a nice post Christmas time 🙂

    Arohanui 🙂


    • Thank you Ina,

      The blackbirds are early morning singers here – and the robins too 🙂

      Robins are very territorial – that’s what there song is all about. So if I wear red it might perceive me as a threat and hence I might get a chance to see it 🙂

      Simon Barnes is not, as far as I know, a poet. He is, among other things the chief sports writer for the Times newspaper. but he also writes about nature. I do enjoy most of his writing.

      I am enjoying the peace of post Christmas. Although I will not be doing much bird listening today – too wet and windy!!


      • 🙂 I am trying to imagine you dressed up as a giant robin to get the bird to sing. I doubt the creature would think you were a threat ( maybe he would think of you as Santa Claus?) but it gives me the chuckles, thanks!

      • Delighted Ina to provide you with “the chuckles” 🙂


  3. Vera Hazelgrove Says:

    I suppose in listening I have the advantage since it is all I can do 🙂
    I have very little hope of actually seeing a bird unless they are sea gulls at the beach or a flock of birds in the sky.

    It’s a lovely poem !

    – happy listening to bird song 🙂

    and if you do take a picture I will love to see the bird you were listening to!

    Lots of Love

    Vera & Karley

    • Thank you Vera,

      I hear the birds all the time, but, up till now, I have never known which bird I was listening to. I am looking forward to a new journey of exploration 🙂

      If I get pictures I will certainly post them.

      Lots of Love


  4. Hi David,

    What a beautiful way to be inspired! This is such a lovely poem.

    I hope you are able to get more photos of the birds that visit you.

    Your poem reminded me how much I enjoy listening to the birds in the backyard and those that fly overhead. From gallahs to one very noisy little sparrow who thinks the whole yard is his. It can be amusing as much as it can be peaceful. 🙂

    I’m not good at photos though. As soon as I move all the blackbirds sparrows and pigeons take flight…one day I tell myself…one day. 🙂

    There a beautiful visual element to this poem that has me looking up longtailed tits so I’m able to imagine all the birds you mention swiftly fliting by your balcony with their song.

    This has been a most relaxing way to end my day. I shall dream of wrens and cuckoos I think.. 🙂
    Thankyou. 🙂

    and K’sOTC 🙂

    • Hi Tikarma,

      What a lovely comment.

      It fascinates me to think that in different parts of the world there are different birds and therefore different bird songs to listen to.
      Although blackbirds, sparrows and pigeons would seem to be universal 🙂

      There is a podcast which goes with the book – so I can sit here at my computer and on dark wintery days like today listen to the podcast – listen to the birds and educate myself at the same time 🙂

      I love the longtailed tits – they make me smile every time they visit the tree outside my window.

      Sweet Dreams 🙂

      and K’sOTC 🙂

  5. Smiling; I listen often, for the what they share is happiness,and a feeling that the world is perfect, and what more is there!! Loved this David!! Huge Hugs!!

  6. A refreshing poem David. We all find our inspirational flow from various sources. I see & hear alot of birds, especially in the winter season. I see the tiny robin, but never manage to hear their call (:

  7. Very nice poem David. I will give “bird watching with my eyes closed” a whirl when I return home. I hope to hear a robin soon, though the beauty of a cardinal against the background of snow is breathtaking.

    • What a wonderful image – “the beauty of a cardinal against the background of snow is breathtaking”

      I am not sure what part of the world you are in Sherry but it sounds beautiful.

      I can thoroughly recommend the book.


  8. Beautiful. I, too, love to listen to the birds. I learned to identify their calls when I was a child, but like much else, the memory is gone now… x

  9. I love birdsongs.. crows in particular this was lovely!

  10. This is a lovely ode to birds and their symphony of songs! I too love to just listen, and sometimes will hear a different, unusual birdsong – always illusive to see the “new” bird in the trees, so best to just listen and enjoy – and hope they’ll visit again someday.

    This is also a great reminder to listen mindfully to all of nature, and to each other… as we all have our songs to sing.

    Wonderful poem, David!!

    • “so best to just listen and enjoy”

      Clearly Betty you are a kindred spirit to Simon Barnes – he says that too 🙂

      Listening mindfully to birds is a great way of clearing my head of all the stuff!!!

      Delighted to have you visit


  11. What a nice piece. This is actually just exactly what I needed to read this morning, so thanks for the great start to my day. Happy, healthy 2012!

  12. Every morning Ethel gets up, puts the coffee on, and then goes out in the winter cold of New Mexico to fill the bird feeders so that doves, woodpeckers, chickadees, pinion jays, purple finches, and what seems to be an endless number of singers come to our yard. In the summer she brings in so many different kinds of hummingbirds that the world flashes iridescent around our windows. This poem makes me smile deep inside where the birds sing, David. It makes me remember that the world truly in a song-filled place.

    • Ethel seems to have a routine which makes the world spin at a gentler pace 🙂

      We do well to take the time to do those things which connect us nature.

      My very best wishes for 2012 to you both


  13. How odd, David…I was just listening to birdsong on youtube. Not as good as listening in the “wild,” but delightful just the same, as is your poem. 🙂 I hope to not only listen, but also to birdwatch this coming year! Thanks for reminding me. 😀 Best wishes in the New Year!

  14. Excellent my friend,,,I love to hear and watch the birds that surround me

  15. David, I have been meaning to follow your blog for some time now. Shame on my procrastination! I loved best the “mob-handed” arrival of the long-tailed tits and the “burbling” of the dunnock. My last name is Byrd; and I am largely of Welsh descent. So I know I will become totally addicted to your blog! Hope you can drop in at soon and provide some expert feedback. I admire your poetry so much and know I would profit from your comments.

    • I am delighted Granbe to have you drop by.

      Thank you.

      I will be along shortly to visit your blog.

      The long-tailed tits were here again mob-handed this morning 🙂


  16. I will take a picture if I can
    but mostly I will listen,
    for I want to learn
    to listen,
    to listen to bird song.

    I think you should record their song instead of taking their photo. 🙂

    This was a beautiful poem with lovely imagery. Happy listening!


  17. This is a beautiful, meditative piece, David: as usual, it’s wonderfully observed, humane and grounded – I love your lines about the long-tailed tits ‘as they arrive, mob-handed’. I know a few birds by their song but not nearly as many as I’d like: you’ve inspired me to listen more closely. And Simon Barnes is a wonderful writer: I’m a huge fan, too. Thanks for this one; really enjoyed it.

    • Thank you Nick,

      The long-tailed tits always make me smile when they arrive – all at once, all in a rush, all chattering. 🙂

      Simon Barnes re-awakened my interest in nature some years ago. I am grateful that he did. This latest book is a delight.


  18. Hey David,

    Happy New Year! It’s been a crazed time lately. I need to listen to the birds more. Beautiful!


  19. Beautifully written and is not as simple as it first seems. Ethel

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