Recently Forestry England sent out a press release to celebrate the ‘Sound of the Year’ awards. To be honest, I'd never heard (excuse the pun) of these awards; however, it would seem that Forestry England asked its visitors what was their favourite sound of spring in the forest? It’s probably no surprise to learn that birdsong topped the poll gaining close to 70% of the votes.

Few things typify spring more than the dawn chorus, and I sympathise with those who are unable to hear it or any other sound from the natural world. According to Forestry England, a study led by a team at the University of Exeter has found that just hearing natural sounds calms us. I doubt it will come as much of a surprise to most of us, but Ellen Devine, Forestry England's Wellbeing manager, said: "It's amazing how just tuning into the sounds of the forest on your walk can make you feel less stressed." She went on to say, "The sounds, sights and smells of the forest play are so powerful! They all play a role in bringing our blood pressure down, calming our thoughts and helping us see our thoughts more clearly."

 And this got me thinking about the birds that visit our gardens and local areas. We each have our own motivations for feeding and encouraging birds to nest in and around our homes, but could the benefits of their songs also be encouraging us subconsciously? Even for those of us who primarily feed the birds to help sustain them and encourage them closer, could their songs be having an effect on our motivation without us even noticing? I’m sure many feed the birds primarily to enjoy hearing their songs, but for most, birdsong may not be the primary reason.

Even if it isn't the main motivator, sound has to have a significant bearing on why we feed and look after the birds and, for that matter, all wildlife in our immediate areas. We don't often hear other garden visitors despite the occasional fox barking or badger or hedgehog snuffling around in the undergrowth. But just think of what it would be like without the bird song! Sadly those who have suffered hearing loss know this only too well!

 With spring now well underway and with birds busily making a start on their first broods of the year, the dawn chorus is at its best, even for those of us whose hearing may no longer be at its best. But all too quickly, as we get involved in our days, the birdsong fades into the background, maybe even drowned out by the sounds of modern life. So perhaps encouraging birds a little closer with food will enable us to appreciate their acoustic efforts that much more and for that bit longer.

 Few of us are able to walk in the woods every day and gain the benefits detailed in countless studies, so by bringing and keeping the birds that bit closer, we may be able to benefit a little from their efforts. Just another reason to look after our feathered friends.

© Phil Pickin