Birds of Lakeland/Birds of Lockdown

In Summer 2020 Will and I were commissioned by Aerial festival to make a podcast based on our very local walks during the first UK lockdown for their Sounds of Silence feature of the online version of the festival. The podcast blends bird song we recorded on our walks with reflections on the current situation, and on the ecology of the Lake District, via Mary Armitt’s survey ‘The Birds of Rydal’, first published in the Naturalist in July and August 1902. It’s also a kind of diary of those months in the spring and summer of 2020. I wanted the script to be shared with the podcast for access reasons, but it never was, so here it is. You can listen to the audio here.

Birds of Lakeland/Birds of Lockdown

Eurasian Wren

Eurasian Siskin

Uncertain Ring Ouzel

Uncertain Rook

Almost Certain Eurasian Nuthatch

Almost Certain Mistle Thrush

Uncertain Canada Goose

Uncertain Canada Goose

Polly: I’m Polly Atkin

Will: and I’m Will Smith. We live together in Grasmere, in the heart of the Lake District.

Polly: During lockdown we began to take short daily walks from our home at the south end of Grasmere. Our walks follow a route I often take when I’m at home in the day, a circuit which keeps close to home and avoids busy areas whilst offering peak distraction, in the form of birds, deer, red squirrels, mossy logs and sudden views. I take this walk because my energy and mobility are limited by chronic illness, which puts me at higher than average risk from COVID-19. We take it now together for the same reasons. We can walk out from the house, and if we time it right, meet no one once we get beyond the road. The walk takes us over common ground, between Grasmere and Rydal. There are no gates or stiles to form barriers or disease vectors. We rarely meet other people, only animals, insects, amphibians, birds.

Will: We walked out of the remnants of winter and into a lockdowned spring in which the usual noises of twenty-first century Lakeland life – tourist traffic, airplanes, human feet and voices – were dialed right down, so the voices of the birds and their many neighbours rose up into the space left for them. Red squirrels and deer took over roads and gardens normally noisy with visitors. With no contrails in the sky and few cars on the roads, you could sit on the common between Grasmere and Rydal, and imagine this is what Lakeland sounded like a hundred years ago, or more.

Polly: With the voices of the birds so loud in our ears, we were painfully aware of our inability to recognise them. We could tell them from each other, but we could not be sure who they were.

Will: I’d been reading an essay on field guides by Helen Macdonald, from her new collection Vesper Flights in which she mentions the growing popularity of electronic field guides: apps to help you recognise plants, insects, birds. To Macdonald, these apps take away from the slow, analogue process of mapping a bird’s song or appearance on to a guide book. For her these apps ‘make it harder to learn those things we unconsciously absorb from field guides: family resemblances among species, or their places in the taxanomic order’, as she puts it. Despite this warning, we download BirdNet, an app developed by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Chemnitz University of Technology, which matches audio recordings made in the field against ‘984 of the most common species of North America and Europe’.

Macdonald remembers how as a child ‘field guides made possible the joy of encountering a thing [she] already knew but had never seen before.’ But for us, the opposite happened: using an app formerly introduced us to the rich community of birds that we already knew from their daily presence, but not by name, who otherwise might have remained indecipherable chatter.

Our walks got longer and longer – not in distance – we covered and recovered the same familiar ground of White Moss Common – but in time, as we stopped to record, recognize and talk about the birds we met along the way.

*

Almost Certain Willow Warbler

Almost Certain Garden Warbler

Almost Certain White-Throated Dipper

Almost Certain Common Merganser

Almost Certain Eurasian Magpie

Almost Certain Common Cuckoo

Uncertain Ring Ouzel

Likely Grey Wagtail

Almost Certain Grey Wagtail

Likely wren

*

Polly: Recording birdsong made us think about Mary Louisa Armitt, and her studies of birds in the area over a hundred years ago. Mary Louisa Armitt, known as Louie, was born in Salford in 1851, the youngest of three sisters, encouraged and enabled in their education. Annie, the eldest, wanted to be a writer, Sophia a painter, and Louie a Musician. I can’t help seeing them as a Mancunian analogue to Little Women. Sophia studied at the Manchester School for Art; Louie at the Mechanics Institute. When their father died in 1867, Annie and Sophia had been studying in France, but his death left them with no financial support. They set up a school for younger girls, and continued to educate themselves whilst supporting themselves by educating others.

Annie wrote novels, short stories, poetry and essays. Sophia painted and studied botany, publishing articles on plants and gardening, and writing that would now be thought of as nature writing. Louie published articles on natural history and music criticism.

Will: All three Armitt sisters ended up living in the Lake District. Annie moved to Hawkshead with her husband. Sophia and Louie followed when a small legacy gave them some financial freedom in 1882. Neither married. After Annie’s husband died in 1894 the three sisters moved to Rydal, where they would live together for the rest of their lives, free to read, write, study and create.

*

Will: April 11th. Our first recording. A Eurasian Nuthutch, almost Certain, followed by a Highly Uncertain Common Chiffchaff.

It is a month since the novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic. 917 new deaths have been recorded in the UK in the last twenty-four hours. The total is reaching 1000.

This is the day Matt Hancock appears to blame NHS staff for using too much PPE, whilst Boris Johnson, still in hospital but out of intensive care, makes statements thanking the NHS for his care.

We meet a pair of grey wagtails, who seem to be living in the old bank barn at the top of the road. We see them daily now, dipping in and out of the building, resting with that familiar bobbing motion on the dry stone wall.

Louie describes her own pair which could be ours:

Polly [as Louie]: ‘There is a flash of unaccustomed wings over the wall, and a twitter of excitement. Another, the second bird, drops into the road close by. They are the Grey Wagtails, the first seen this year. They alight near the gutter that runs from the byre and run to and fro, looking for food. They run most nimbly: the balance of their long tails permits their speed, as they chase a fly, to become a dart […] They utter sippity little cries as they run, showing thus the flutter of spirits they are in.’

Will: As we come back down to the road from the common, a tawny owl swoops over a feral ewe as she grazes on the woody path.

*

Polly: By the end of August, the app tells us we have made a total of 1199 observations. It only counts the ones with a valid detection.

Sometimes we record our own footsteps and breathing as much as the birds.

Sometimes a cluster of Canada Geese pass over, honking as they go, and they are all the app can hear.

I love the language of the app. The language of certainty and uncertainty. Detected species ranked by probability.

Sometimes the app says Almost Certain Long-tailed Tit and Uncertain Willow Warbler, but it can’t hear the cuckoo calling spring spring spring.

Sometimes the app says No Confident Detection, and we know how it feels.

Not analysed.

This year, there are times we might all feel like an uncertain treecreeper, an uncertain nuthatch, uncertain siskin, uncertain goldcrest, uncertain rook.

Sometimes the app says highly likely human, and we laugh.

Sometimes is says uncertain human. That is what we all are.

Sometimes it says ‘sorry, we were not able to confidently identify any bird species’. It offers a button you can press to ask it to make a wild guess.

Sometimes that’s the best we can hope for, to tell us what anything means.

*

Will: In 1894, the year the Armitt sisters settle in Rydal, Louie begins to publish observations of bird life in the Naturalist magazine. Her first article in The Naturalist is on ‘Crossbills in the Lake District’, her last, in 1906, is on ‘The Bramble as Food For Birds’. She wrote a regular column of bird observations in the Westmorland Gazette, some of which she gathered and published as a book Studies of Lakeland Birds, in 1897.

Polly [as Louie]: They are the outcomes of some leisured years of country life, when delight in the songs and ways of birds had fixed observation into a habit, and this had already filled a six-year’s diary with copious notes. They were begun simply upon an impulse to record what was known by the writer of the life-history of some particular species […] They profess to be no more than studies, taken from the life, by an amateur. […] They profess to be true — with a truth as perceived by but one set of faulty human senses! — of the birds of one neighbourhood or district alone.

MLA, Rydal Cottage, March 1897.

*

Polly: We are very amateur. Much more than Louie. When we begin, the sounds we know by heart are only the most obvious ones. The noisy ones. Cuckoo cuckoo. Corvids. Geese. Over the summer, we learn to distinguish the songbirds from each other. We know now when it is the chaffinch shouting. We know the thin high-pitched song of the goldcrest. The bolshy wren. We know that one particular song thrush always singing its heart out from the top of the same thin tree. We can’t promise we will remember, next month, next year, but for this one summer we know our neighbours’ names.

*

Will: After she died, Willingham Rawnsley – brother of Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the co-founders of the National Trust – gathered Louie’s local writings and published them. First, in 1912, he published her history of Grasmere Church, just a year after her death. In 1916 he published a collection of her writings about Rydal.  

Polly: In the introduction he lays out how important birds were to her life, and her happiness.

Will [as Willingham]: Her keenest enjoyment was in the little expeditions, some of which we had together, in search of some rare or notable bird. Every bird was known to her, his habitat, his dates of migration, his note, his method of nesting, and all that a bird would be at most pains to conceal, was to her an open book. The Pied Flycatcher, the migratory Wagtails, the Dipper, his song, his singular habits and the discovery of his nest were an annual delight to her. The circling Buzzards were, I might almost say, her familiar friends.

Together we went to call on the black and white “Tufted Duck,” and found him at home without fail on “Priests Pot” near Hawkshead ; and the crested Grebe, though not so easy to see, was not far off on Esthwaite, near which Miss Armitt noted with satisfaction the increasing number of Redshanks, reported by that very “rara avis” a Naturalist gamekeeper to be nesting thereabout. Her face lit up with pleasure when I described to her the Woodcock who alighted close to me on the lawn at Loughrigg Holme in order to get a firmer hold of the young one she was carrying in her claws, and who tried to wriggle away from her grasp. But the greatest delight of all was the sight, early in the spring, of a Mother Snipe and her three young ones on the Little Langdale road. We pulled up close to them, and when the mother flew into the grass on one side of the road the little ones ran back to the other side and in a moment, squatting close, were so hidden that we could not find a trace of them, though all the time they were within a few feet of us.

*

Polly: The Rydal book includes as an appendix Louie’s study ‘The Birds of Rydal’, a survey first published in the Naturalist in July and August 1902.

The seventeen pages of ‘The Birds of Rydal’ form a unique record of bird life and activity in the area at the turn of the twentieth century.

She lists 103 species, from permanent residents including pheasants, coots, moorhens, woodcocks, herons, mallards, kestrels, wrens, dippers, treecreepers, finches and tits to regular winter or summer visitants, and the occasional visitor, like the waxwing or the teal, or great crested grebe.

Enfolded in her account of the birds are accounts of change and loss over time. Numbers falling; species vanishing, and new ones appearing. Raptors are persecuted, nests harried, breeding adults shot. Some birds’ presence is only affirmed to her by their dead bodies.

Of the Curlew, now so emblematic of population decline, she writes:

Will [as Louie]: Occasional visitor only, as it no longer breeds on Loughrigg. Its quavering cry is heard in early spring, as it moves to its nesting quarters, on the rough heights (Black Fell, Hawkshead Moor, etc.) round the head of Esthwaite Lake. In the late summer of 1898, when I had word that it was unusually numerous on its breeding ground, it pushed the incursions it makes into the Esthwaite hay meadows (when these were shorn of grass) as far as this parish. Nine or ten birds were about in the last days of July.

Polly: Lapwings too are losing their territory in 1902, with only a few known to be nesting in sheltered sites. They come too early, and fail. Louie writes ‘I have a note of its arrival on the marsh on 10th January, 1890 ; and was told of a flock on Grasmere Marsh on 14th January, 1900 ; but these too-early incursions are followed by withdrawals.’

Will: ‘The Birds of Rydal’ is a record not just of life in a particular moment in time, but of climate change, of habitat destruction and species loss.

There are birds in Louie’s list that we have not seen in Grasmere or Rydal.

There are no longer starlings ‘in almost every house’: we’re not sure we’ve ever seen one here.

We have heard a Curlew flying over, but not seen one on the ground. We have never seen a Lapwing here, nor a Woodcock, nor a Night Jar, though some of these may be for want of looking in the right places at the right times.

But there are also birds that are disappearing from Louie’s time that are thriving, or at least surviving, in ours.

Of the Great Spotted Woodpecker, she laments ‘I have been unable to find it myself, nor has the squire seen it for eight or more years’, when this summer we could not escape from them: everywhere we went it seemed a Great Spotted Woodpecker was there before us, or following after.

The house martins and swallows she notes as summer visitants, but not abundant, have been many when we’ve known them, especially the martins, who have a vast colony under the eaves of a hotel.

Polly: We picked up the song of Chiffchaffs regularly on our walks, which Louie calls ‘somewhat rare in the Lake country.’ Long-tailed tits, which she calls ‘not very numerous’, go about in great mobs, especially in the winter, when they descend on the bird feeder in a cheeping blizzard. I love the little baubles of their bodies.

Without the app recognising its voice, we would not be able to tell you that we crossed paths with several Ring Ouzel, which Louie notes as ‘rare in Lakeland, where ground fruits such as belong to true moor-lands are scarce.’

Most striking is the turn about in the status of the Goldfinch, who in Louie’s time lives only in ‘the memory of middle-aged men’, who in her notes recall it flocking in autumn on Loughrigg. Louie never saw a Goldfinch here, but we see enough that we think of it as a regular.

There are losses, there are gains. There is hope.

Once or twice this summer, I was sure I saw and heard a Sky-Lark, but I can’t be certain. Not even almost certain.

Louie tells us that in 1902:


Will [as Louie]: ‘This bird is practically absent from Lakeland, where, according to an old inhabitant, it once existed in fair numbers, a change ascribed to the lapse of old corn-lands into pasture and meadow. But it is a remarkable fact that a few pairs return each summer to nest on the summit of our mountain range. It is to be heard singing, I am told, on almost the topmost height of Fairfield; and the farmer, whose sheep range over the slopes, has found its nest towards the top of the spur called Heron Crag.’

Polly: I might have dreamt a sky lark or the ghost of a sky lark, or maybe the great great great great grandchildren of the pairs Louie hears about do still return, after all.

*

Highly Likely Common Redstart

Almost Certain Common Redstart

Highly Likely Eurasian Blackcap

Almost Certain Eurasian Jay

Almost Certain Pied Flycatcher

Almost Certain Spotted Flycatcher

Almost Certain Eurasian Oystercatcher

Highly Uncertain Great Spotted Woodpecker

Almost Certain European Green Woodpecker

Likely Carrion Crow

*

Will: Willingham Rawnsley records that Louie was ‘for years more or less of an invalid’. One biographical note says that by the time she was living in Rydal, writing about the birds around her home, Louie ‘was so ill with heart trouble that she was prevented from travelling far’. Her local focus is a necessity, not a choice, but she finds beauty and use in it. She takes out a subscription to the London library, who send books North to her. She writes articles on Rydal Beetles, on Observations on Spiders at Rydal.

Polly: I know how it feels to have your movements limited by illness. I know how watching birds flit about can bring a kind of vicarious movement. How their voices feel like company, how their lives can make a life less small and alone. How they become dear friends to you, whether they know it or not.

*

Highly Likely Coaltit

Highly Likely Great Tit

Almost Certain Tree Pipit

Almost Certain Meadow Pipit

Almost Certain Long-Tailed Tit

Almost Certain Marsh tit

Almost Certain Dunnock

Almost Certain Tawny Owl

*


Polly: The first time we see the owl up close is on April 13th.

It’s not that we didn’t know it – or they – were there before.


There was a time a few years ago you could see a tawny owl every afternoon, sitting in the same tree.

The owls are always here though, whether we see them or not.

We know they’re hear because they come down to the house at night. Sometimes their calls are so loud and close they seem to be perching on the outside of our bedroom window sill.

It always makes me think of Neko Case’s song ‘This Tornado Loves You’ – my love, I’m an owl on the sill in the evening


Do you remember the time we were driving back from seeing Neko Case in Manchester, and an owl crossed our path, just by Rydal Water?

I thought it was going to hit the windscreen, but it just skimmed us, settling in a tree overhanging the lake.

Will: The owl is listed by Louie in her Birds of Rydal. She calls it a Wood Owl, and gives it the taxonomy Syrnium Aluco, but now we call it Tawny Owl or Brown Owl, or Strix Aluco. All she says about the owl is ‘Permanent resident. Abundant.’

We know they are here, but abundant now doesn’t quite seem the right description. Permanent resident. Still present. Hanging on to their territory. Surprisingly resilient.

Polly [singing]:
The owl the owl is a lonesome bird
She fills my heart with dread and terror

That’s somebody’s blood there on her wing
That’s somebody’s blood there on her feather


Will: In April our walking hour coincides with the owl’s hunting hour, and it seems every day we disturb her as we go. She is always three trees ahead of us. Our noise unsettles her, sends her swooping away from us.

On April 13th we manage, accidentally, to sneak up on her. It is a bright evening; long yellow sun making everything tawny. She is resting on a mossy branch in almost direct sunlight, intently watching something on the ground. Eventually she turns to return our gaze.

April 13th 2020. Global cases of Covid-19 surpass 1.85 million; deaths 114,000.


Polly: After that, we see the owl often, mostly from a distance, sometimes close by as she waits out the lengthening light in a safe nook. Sometimes we can’t pick her out from branches until we are too close for her comfort and she has to unfold herself and remove herself to a quieter spot. These nights, in particular, she seems to come down the hill to the house after dark, and call outside our bedroom, as if to say I know where you live too.

*

Will: April 22nd 2020. First sighting of swallows wheeling in the sky over How Top Farmhouse, and the barns where they nest every year.

Global deaths from Covid-19 have surpassed 175,000. In the UK, they are estimated at 16,500.

In America, Donald Trump has announced a 60-day ban on immigration.

On the news they warn of global famine, global economic collapse.

The world for each of us seems to be getting smaller, and bleaker.

But here, our summer migrants are arriving in number.

Not so much a sign the world is still working, but that some kinds of life will go on.

Louie wrote that the swallow has served mankind ‘as a symbol of great mysteries. It has been to him a visible token of invisible things. Cosmic forces – the position of the earth towards the sun and its varied movements, the year and the season […] It came with the warmth, it went with the cold, becoming thus a winged type of summer itself, of love and joy.’

*

Almost Certain European Greenfinch

Almost certain Common chaffinch

Almost Certain Eurasian Bullfinch

Almost Certain Common Chiffchaff

Almost Certain European Stonechat

Almost Certain Eurasian Blackcap

Almost Certain Common Blackbird

Highly Likely Tree Pipit

Likely Collared Dove

*

Will: In May 1898 Louie writes that spring always comes as a surprise, somehow, ‘with a quick transition that makes a magical effect’.

Polly as Louie: ‘It is at this moment of spring, upon the sudden bursting of the green, that our summer birds arrive. To be sure, they have begun to come before – some few of them, with the first of the green; but now they come species after species, in numbers. Suddenly like the green, they are here. The wood that, a fortnight since, was vacant and silent, now resounds with the songs of a multitude of birds.’


Will: In May 2020, the willow warblers, wood warblers and chiff chaffs have arrived, and are busy on the common and in the wood. We hear the tree pipits and meadow pipits and redstarts, who flit from tree to tree above us as we walk.

On May 25th we meet a pair of Mistle Thrushes on the common, and see a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers together in the wood for the first time. We know the Woodpeckers predate the other birds’ nests, but we are still excited to see them.

In Central Park, New York, a black birdwatcher, Christian Cooper, has the police called on him by a white woman for asking her to put her dog on a lead.

On the same day, in Minneapolis, a white police officer kneels on the neck of a black man, George Floyd, for over eight minutes, until he is dead, and the year’s meaning shifts.

The summer blooms into a summer of protest, of uprising, resounding with the songs of a multitude too.

*


Polly: In mid-July the comet cuts a line down the sky, like an endtimes sign from a dead century. The weather is changeable this month. We choose what turns out to be the one clear night to walk up to the wishing gate and watch for it. We’re too early, in the light of midsummer, and have to linger by the wood until it gets dark enough for the stars to show themselves. It’s cold. As we wait, bats flitting around us, a strange crying comes from the trees. It is not a voice we know. It sounds like a wounded animal, urgent and alarmed. Alarming. We try the app and the app says human. We try the app again and the app says pheasant. We try the app again says goldcrest and then we are sure the app is baffled. We shine our torches into the night wood and see nothing. The cry keeps coming.

We record the cry and take our own guess. Hungry owl baby. Hidden in the dark. We comfort ourselves that we know the difference between an owl and a human, or we think we do, when we have a home to go into, and lights to turn on.

And when we do go in, finding we are still wearing our human faces after all, we check our human owl baby cries against recordings, and find our guess was correct.

*

Highly Uncertain Common Kestrel

Highly Uncertain Little Grebe

Highly Uncertain Common Buzzard

Highly Uncertain Greylag Goose

Almost Certain Common House Martin

Almost Certain Common Swift

Almost Certain Western Jackdaw

Almost Certain Eurasian Siskin


Almost Certain European Robin

Almost Certain Song Thrush

Likely Raven

Likely Wood Pigeon

Uncertain Grey Heron

Uncertain Grey Wagtail

Uncertain Goldcrest

Uncertain Human

*

Polly: Willingham writes a postscript to his editor’s note on Louie’s Rydal book, which seems resonant now in a peculiar way, as we float in the timeless limbo of this plague year:

Will [as Willingam]: The editor had hoped to complete long ago the task left him to do. But the war, which has everywhere borne heavily on printer and publisher, has caused one delay after another. Still, if such Antiquarian studies as Miss Armitt had spent the latter years of her life over are worth anything, I must agree with Professor Haverfield that, ‘even in war-time, it does not seem necessary or desirable to drop all intellectual work […] save in the direst need.’ […] With this strong opinion to uphold me I have thought it best to bring this book out at once, hoping that it will be found of permanent interest far beyond the immediate neighbourhood of Rydal, rather than wait for the end of the war, an event whose date lies yet upon the knees of the gods.

Polly: I hate the language of war applied to illness. It says that if you die you just weren’t strong enough or valiant enough to live. You didn’t try hard enough. You were a bad solider. You let the side down. If you live but don’t get better you’re a deserter from the army of the well, no longer productive.

If I die and anyone dares to utter those words ‘lost her battle with’ or – worse ‘fought a valiant battle with but lost in the end’ I will haunt them until they give up the fight themselves.


It seems even worse tacked onto a pandemic.

Will: July 17th. Boris Johnson tells us ‘we must carry on waging this long, hard fight against Coronavirus’, as though he thinks we are at war with Covid-19. If we are, we can only lose. No military force can beat a virus. No personal strength can either.

On this day, the UK death toll from Covid-19 rises to 45, 233 people.
Global cases surpass 14 Million.

A pandemic won’t respect your borders or your armies. It doesn’t care how many nukes you have stashed away. You can’t drop a bomb on it. You can’t incarcerate its soldiers. You can’t change its mind.

But when we read Willingham’s words from 1916
the end of the war, an event whose date lies yet upon the knees of the gods
we can’t help feeling those words also speak to 2020.  


*


Polly: August 24th. An owl is calling outside our window.

She has come down from the woods, as she always does.

The app says No confident Detection. The app says the voice in the night is a shapeshifter, calls her a human, then a coot, then a buzzard, then a jay. Cannot place her. Cannot assign her a body or a history.


But we know her. We don’t need an app to tell us her name.

*


Will:
August 26th. The birds are quieter now. Week by week it is harder to pick out their songs over the busy summer holiday traffic, busier than a normal year. The summer migrants are preparing to leave us. Louie notes how the birds songs lose their power in late summer, that even though they still sing, ‘these last songs do but sound their own death-knells. They tell us in audible gasp they are at an end.’

In the garden we hear a sudden eruption of sound, and it comes as a shock now. It is a cluster of nuthatches all talking at once.

Polly: Amongst the nuthatches we’ve recorded me too, saying I can’t see them but I know they’re there. It’s like applause.

This month the news has been of migrants drowning in search of a safer life. Of rigged elections. Of avoidable tragedy. Covid-19 cases worldwide have reached 24 million. Two Black Lives Matter protestors were shot dead by a white teenager with a rifle in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as they marched in solidarity with Jacob Blake, paralysed when a policeman shot him seven times in the back.

Will: This has been a summer of loss, in so many ways, for so many people. A summer of grief, and anger and despair. But the birds keep singing. They built their nests, they hatched their young, they fledged – they carried on – against great and terrible odds, as they always do. Whether you take that as a sign of hope – of resilience, of resistance – or of indifference – is up to you. To us, the birds showed us the power of continuation – how a grey wagtail can dart out of 1897 into 2020 and bring its flutter of spirits into our dreich existence. They remind us that another spring will come.

Louie writes on ‘The Last Song of Summer’:

Polly [as Louie]: Then will come the time of steady silence, marked by but a few rare sounds. The chiff-chaff’s ceaseless chant, the goldcrest’s thin and scratchy tune do hardly count, devoid of melody as they are. It is only the yellow-hammer’s ditty on the fells, the wren’s gay song as he nests yet again, or maybe the willow warbler’s few tones of real reminiscent sweetness, that will fall on our ears now and then in the stillness, like spots of light in darkness to the eye. They will recall to us through the silence the days gone by of music and melody, spring-time and love; they will make the void felt, until our robin, rousing from his moulting-rest, shall start the new songs of autumn.

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