Let Nature Sing

Don't let nature's music stop

Adrian Thomas explores his lifelong love affair with bird song.

Meet Adrian

Adrian Thomas is well known as the RSPB's wildlife gardener, but he has also been passionate about bird song since childhood, and in 2015 set out (with his tent and alarm clock) to record and write the RSPB Guide to Bird song (available using the shop link at the bottom of the page).

Adrian Thomas biography

Bringing music to the world

So much in nature is so beautiful to watch, so beautiful in appearance and fascinating in its behaviour. But close your eyes and bar the humming of bees and chirruping of grasshoppers, there is one group that stands out for the sounds they make. Birds bring music to the world, and have done so from long before humans realised the power of song.

A lifelong passion

I’ve been fortunate enough to hear a multitude of birds in what has been a lifelong fascination for me. The passion started early, for my parents enjoyed nature and walks in the countryside, and my dad was the volunteer warden of a woodland nature reserve that had a small population of nightingales. I remember accompanying him as he led guided walks for the public who would come in their droves to fall under the spells of this famous songster. No wonder I became so struck with the wonder of it all.

Experiencing bird song

Some birdsounds are rich and powerful, some are odd, and some are exquisitely beautiful and intoxicating.

They seem to encapsulate the essence of a place and a time, whether it be the lonesome “tew pu pu” calls of redshanks on a windswept marsh, or the other-worldly purring of a nightjar at midnight on a midsummer heath, like an engine shifting up and down a gear. Or how about the first chiffchaff of the year, whose song in March signals that spring is on its way even though the branches might still be bare?

Music all around us

I love the fact that you don't have to go far to enjoy it. Most gardens or parks will have some of our finest songsters, be it the rich fluty melodies of a blackbird, or the mountain stream verses of a robin. Nor do you have to get up at dawn to appreciate it all. Although I would encourage everyone to experience at least one full-on dawn chorus each spring, just for the overwhelming of your senses, in spring many birds keep singing on and off through much of the day.

A world of magical sounds

Go further afield and you can encounter quite different choruses, be it the lonesome calls of curlew and golden plover on an upland moor, or the clamour of a seabird colony dominated by the kittiwakes screaming their names and the belly-laughs of guillemots, underpinned by the strange chainsaw growl of puffins. It's no wonder I ended up heading around the country to record the sounds that have enriched my life.

A chorus at risk

What is then so sad is how we are losing much of this chorus. My mum still lives in the house where I was born, and when I visit I walk the same fields and woods I did as a child. Yes, birds still sing there, but if I turn to the notebooks my dad kept in the 1960s, the change is astonishing.

A fading song

Back then, they heard turtle doves, lesser spotted woodpeckers, curlews, redstarts, grasshopper warblers, tree sparrows and nightingales. None of those remain. A cuckoo is now a rarity. Yellowhammers are on their way out. And where there were once several skylarks above each field, there is now just one or two.

A wake up call for the world

The demise of bird song is a signal that all is not well with the world. We need nature to keep singing, to show that the planet remains a fit home for them - and us. Our Let Nature Sing single was a celebration of all that is special about bird song, but also a wake-up call that we can't let nature fall silent.

Want to learn more about bird song?

Adrian’s new book and recordings, The RSPB Guide to Bird song, was released this April. Proceeds from those sold through the RSPB shop go to nature conservation.

Chart success!

Let Nature Sing was your opportunity to put the birds you care about on the main stage. Thanks to you, we reached #18 in the charts! Thank you for helping us make history. Don’t forget you can still buy/stream the song and show your support for nature.

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