Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A soundtrack to your birding?

My birding history is totally wrapped up in other cultural reference points. It is impossible for me to consider my early Dungeness birding years without an accompanying soundtrack that summons up the good birding and the class social scene - The Doors, Neil Young and Kevin Ayres may have been briefly usurped by Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but even today, thirty odd years later a couple of bars of Hyacinth House or Cinnamon Girl hurl me back to those carefree days in an instant.

And it isn't just the good music that can do it. Iffy stuff works as well! When I hear Rasputin by Boney M I'm in a car on an overnight drive to Cornwall on a twitch; Buggles Video Killed the Radio Star sees me on the quay at St. Agnes waiting for a boat back to St. Mary's; Tightrope by ELO finds me at Pagham Harbour enjoying some of the most exciting birding that I ever experienced. The music is as much a part of the experience as the birds were. And sometimes the music overtook it - I chose to attend a Banshee's gig rather than twitch a Scarlet Tanager on Scilly (or was it a Northern Waterthrush? 1982 anyhow...)

When I wander the downs in search of plants I gain classical music as my backdrop - it's all Elgar's Enigma Variations and the works of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Yes, I'm guilty of stereotyping here.

It's music rather than other forms of media that do it for me - just as a sudden smell can transport you back to childhood before you've even registered it, music can do the same. And if you haven't got this gift (because I look upon it as a blessing to be given such emotions), then you are sadly missing out. Will the Next Generation Birder's look back on the Portland Brunnich's Guillemot with their very own soundtrack to elevate the event into a piece of personal history, something to be cherished in the years to come?

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