Sandra Dick: Ill wind ruins wonder of dawn chorus

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DATELINE: 3am, Sunday. Location: Garden path. Condition: Knackered. I’d love to say that I was rolling home having abandoned the merciless torture of Britain’s Got Talent for the company of good friends, fine wine and proper entertainment.

Instead, I was returning from the out-of-hours doctor, one son in tow having had his abdomen prodded and what looked like an almost certain case of appendicitis two hours earlier relegated to no more than an unfortunate episode of good old trapped wind.

Can’t be too careful, joys of parenthood . . . I hear you. Please don’t think too badly of me if I confess that as the doctor looked at me like I was some kind of utter fool, I was quietly hoping for something a bit more dramatic than an agonising and pressing need for a very loud, lengthy fart.

Anyway, home we went, he to sleep like a baby, me to sit up, wide awake and wondering if there was any point in going to bed.

The house was still – for once, no television blaring, Xbox game raging or clapped-out washing machine in rocket launch mode – the roar of passing cars on the main road outside was hours away, even the trains on the nearby line seemed to have retreated into some quiet siding.

So just me and what sounded like several hundred noisy, very awake, birds. Without the usual background drone of day-to-day life, the lovely dawn chorus lured me out to the garden bench to just listen.

As my mood softened, I thought back to my mum’s last months in hospital when, as she emerged from difficult surgery, it was a recording of the ocean’s waves slapping against the shore that she craved. The yearning to reconnect with the simplest pleasures outside far more urgent than our desperate offerings of biscuits and Lucozade.

It turns out the uplifting power of nature’s audio reel has proper scientific support: Stockholm University researchers recently showed the sounds of nature help us de-stress, Schipol Airport in Holland uses birdsong in some of its lounges to help travellers relax, while Surrey University researcher Eleanor Ratcliffe’s ongoing study into birdsong for the National Trust suggests old fashioned tweeting does affect our mood for the better.

Sadly, the hustle and bustle of ordinary living, the television, the traffic and trains even soon to be the ding ding of the trams as they glide by, means it’s typically drowned out.

So, we’ve recorded over one of nature’s cheapest and most effective relaxation tools. No wonder we’re all so flaming cranky.