December Birdsong

published on
Beaulieu River

Something unexpected can transform everything.

I was waiting outside the village hall in Beaulieu for an 8am exercise class, a few days before the winter solstice. It was becoming light, but still before sunrise but on this cloudy morning, after lots of rain overnight, it was hard to tell in the gloom. The air was mild and damp.

Then I realised that I was surrounded by birdsong: a genuine dawn chorus from the all the trees and bushes around this lovely village. It blended together, echoing from the bricks and water and layered in complexity, as individual birds started or paused and others joined in to create a seamless whole. I think it was mainly mistle thrushes, with some robins and their melancholy winter song. There may have been some fieldfares mixed in. After a couple of minutes it died away and it was time for class anyway.

Beaulieu means “good place”. The village, tucked around its tidal river and mill pond in a perfect valley, full of old trees and mature woodland, is always full of thrushes as well as its band of free-roaming donkeys and ponies that hang around eating the neat grass and cadging from the tourists.

Today, though, it was all about a brief promise of spring, in the depths of winter. A brief moment of respite from bad weather fooling the birds into anticipation. It made me glad.