I have been living in London for 10 months and have o-so-many good things to say about the city… And all the wonderful places I’ve visited in 10 months, but we’ll start with city life…
Louder than London…
The swoosh of a bus, the roar of a truck… the beeping of traffic lights and the booming of radios from good-in-car sound systems… it is no doubt that London is loud.
And many people who live in “greener spaces” claim to not be able – physically nor mentally – to stay for long within the city walls (within zone eight).
I walk in London for at least an hour every day and I am all too familiar with the loud, overpopulated, over rushed roads and walkways. I don’t enjoy the noise – but neither does it bother me. Many people – especially those far more used to less then _ – ask me how…
How on earth does a conservation ecologist, trained and dedicated to researching and protecting nature, enjoy these streets? What could possibly distract from all the in-your-face FAFFING noise of it all!? Well, put simply, the birds are louder than London.
Whether it be the trill of a robin or the song of the under appreciated blackbird – you can hear this kingdom. Through a small park or pedestrian round about at rush hour. Sitting waiting for a tube at an overground station – you can easily hear these impressive species communicating at all hours of the day – singing (or maybe blaring) away. as we all complain about the constant kurfuffel – at least we are not competing with it!
I think the reason that these songs of effort and prowess so cheer me, lifting my thoughts to ecology despite the big smoke, is the ease of the sound. The tenacity of the species’ calls and their determination to be part of 9-5 city life.
I was recently sitting in a roofed, walled but open air tube station (one direction with a high-banked track, open to the air, the other direction leading into the depths of old bricked tunnels). As I sat on my regular bench, off to work to communicate conservation with whomever I found in my inbox, I clearly heard a blackbird singing from outside the station, down the track, from beyond a bridge and out of sight up the bank… at least 15 meters away. Over the noise of rush-hour underground announcements, Metro-ruffling and the incessant PINGS of smartphones, this blackbird was letting know the females he was around – and that by the sound of his song he’d already had his morning coffee.
There is a robin which lives near the Royal Albert Hall – fittingly one of the most famous sites on the planet – and he is glorious. Almost never spotted, his well practised red-breast pumps out the loudest, clearest, most persistent singing I have heard. I can hear him a full, heavily trafficked street away – and at 4am about 20 meters away.
Evolution plays a part in these city musical scores. Volume rising in London, highly concentrated in rush hours, meant that birds had no choice… With perfectly good space, abundant trees, nesting materials and food (so much scrap food), as the city increased in volume, it was either leave a pretty decent place to live – or get louder themselves.
The birds not only got louder but also more adeptly timed. The city birds’ circadian rhythms fully accommodate the humans’ noisiest times. Some do this by singing from 4-6am, some by singing all night long, presumably sleeping in the day.
With one tweet – without an internet connection and not being followed by many – my mind is full of ecology, evolution and is removed from the city streets. as others rush with furrowed brows, my ears are ready, waiting, knowing any tree (of the 10,000 in London) holds life so easily forgot and disastrously frequently ignored.
So although they may not be “lifers” for ornithologists, nor the most popular of species… (though watching the peregrine falcons on the TATE modern is pretty fantastic), I say “nature people” can easily enjoy London, especially when the species are so keen to be heard as well as seen.