Birds of Britain.

I’m a member of the Songbirds group (devoted to the singers of classic pop and jazz—here’s a screengrab of the group’s home page

and here’s a link that will take you to some acutely perceptive album reviews by our acutely perceptive members. But today’s post is about a whole different kind of songbird.

We were just in London and the Cotswolds for about two weeks (for more on the latter region, an almost unbelievably beautiful, pastoral, idyllic part of England, click here), and one of the very first things you notice, even if you’re a nature clod like me who never notices these things, is the profusion of lovely birdsong all about you. Even in the middle of London every park and square is full of song we never hear in the Colonies. In some kind of cosmic coincidence, on one of our first mornings in London we took a guided Beatles walking tour, and having arrived at the tour’s start (Marylebone Station) a bit early, we took a walk around the neighborhood. In a pocket park near the station we heard a birdsong we’d never heard before, and we looked up to see (and snap) this blackbird. Perhaps a descendant of the very one that inspired Paul to write the song of the same name!

Here is the song of an English blackbird so you can hear what we (and Paul) heard.

In the Cotswolds, we were surrounded by beautiful birdsong, much of which we’d never heard before. I think it must be that England’s temperate climate has over the eons encouraged a profusion and variety of birds beyond anything we know in the United States. Someone has created a YouTube video that takes you there:

The birds of Britain are so famous, in fact, that many books of an ornithological bent have been written with Birds of Britain in the title. (To see just a few of them, click here.) I, however, have a whole different kind of book with that title, a large-format hardback (today we’d called it “coffee table”) book of photographs that I acquired on my first visit to London in 1969. The birds in this Birds of Britain are not feathered–they’re the actresses, songstresses and models of swinging 60’s London. Pattie Boyd (George’s girlfriend, also the cover girl), Jane Asher (Paul’s bird), Susannah York, Charlotte Rampling, Edina Ronay, Chrissie Shrimpton, and more, many more. My first edition (the dustjacket a little the worse for wear) is one of my most treasured objects. You can see by visiting Alibris that first editions of the book are going from several hundred dollars to well over a thousand. I’m not parting with mine.


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