Sunday, 28 April 2013
"Blackbird singing in the dead of night"
Looking a bit tired at the moment?
Some of the culprits for what is commonly called 'springtime lethargy' might be our feathered friends: at 4:18 dear robin starts its song, followed at 4:28 by the blackbird, at 4:33 the wren adds its lovely tunes, 4:38 the great tit joins in, then at 4:58 the chiffchaff, and 5:04 the trillions of sparrows we have in Berlin, (and what they chirp I don't call song).
Our sociocritical poet Bertolt Brecht, "poor B.B.", expressed it in his inimitable unfriendly way:
"By morning in the grey dawn the firs piss, and their vermins, the birds, start to scream..."
Old sourpuss - I prefer those noisy concerts to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring!
Talking of birds: yesterday a biologist might have described the look that husband and I exchanged in the underground with the reaction of male sparrows when they have to listen to the songs of their competitors: tartish. Our amygdala was tortured by two women (each with a child) who discussed the interesting details of a friend - "and then he said..." "and I said: What???"
They sat far apart, so they had to shout very loudly - which didn't disturb them a jota, but the rest of the compartment looked pained (except those lucky ones with headphones on).
Did you know that sparrows or blackbirds that live in cities trill their songs much louder than their country relatives? Most people think that they thus try to outdo the noise of cities - but Danish biologists found out that city architecture matters too: high houses reflect sounds in a different way, so they calculate the echo of buildings. And weather is important: the more it changes between damp and dry the more complex the sound sequence. They say. In Maryland researchers listened over thirty years to the songs of sparrows (oh my God - what a (wild)life!) and found out that only the melody in the beginning of their songs remained the same over time - the middle part changed drastically, the trill at the end became shorter and shorter by time.
The sparrow-girls throw their little hearts to the boys with the most variations -
"O fortune, fortune! all men call thee fickle" (Juliet in Capulet's orchard).