A Winters Note

Standing one day in winter, by the side of a pond near a row of tall elms watching boys sliding, I heard a few short twittering notes of a Nuthatch overhead. It occurred to me how I should describe the note in such a way that it should be infallibly recognised. It is precisely like the sound made by a pebble thrown so as to bounce along ice. This is the winter note.

British Birds in their Haunts 21st edition 1947

There is much in this passage from 70 years ago that illustrates how our relationship with nature is changing. The Nuthatch is a regular visitor to our nut feeders, yet try as I might I cannot distinguish its twittering notes. (Described elsewhere as a rapid trilling ‘chiriririri‘)

We can probably hear, in our inner ear, the sound of a pebble bouncing along ice. On a New Years Eve, on a walk over Cauldale Moor in Cumbria I had the opportunity to bounce pebbles along frozen mini tarns. The sound was more thud-like rather then the chiriririri trill I had been hoping for.

The imaginary of winter, of children sliding on ice is one now deep in memories for many – if it is a memory at all. And as for a row of tall Elms …

And, today in 2020, it is hard to pinpoint just what we would describe as a natural ‘note’ of winter.

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