Most mornings in Sydney I would be jolted from my slumber by a loud sound right outside my bedroom window.
Sounding like a cross between a baby crying, a protesting drunk being evicted from a pub at closing time and a member of the Australian cricket team appealing for yet another LBW (not the current team, obviously), it had a uniquely raucous timbre.
The perpetrator of this noise? Well, I never got to see the culprit face-to-face, but I feel sure it was avian and it was acting alone. A sort of bird vigilante, dedicated to waking the streets of inner Sydney.
Memories of my bird nemesis were brought back recently as I left home one morning recently on a surprisingly spring-like day.
Encouraged by the rise in temperature, I was treated to my own British rendition of a dawn chorus and, like a long forgotten song, suddenly heard on the radio after many years, it transported me back in time to my childhood in the English countryside.
The leader of this chorus was an unseen wood pigeon, cooing gently in the distance, as if to welcome the day ahead.
It was a soft, rolling sound that, if it did wake you up would be a bit like waking up to the clock radio playing classical music rather than the harsh “what the hell was that” sound of a more typical alarm clock (or Aussie bird).
As I continued my walk to the station, I gradually became aware of other bird life joining in the chorus.
First it was the distant, plaintiff calls of the seagulls, coming inland to look for breakfast.
Then it was the busy sounds of the hometown rooks (nickname of the local football team, incidentally) constructing their nests in the trees by the railway track.
I was even lucky enough to see a mini ‘murmuration’ of starlings, sweeping by in formation as they headed off over the South Downs.
(Incidentally, if you have never seen starlings flying in formation, check this out – one of the wonders of nature)
And as if that wasn’t enough, my subsequent train journey was enlivened by the sight of a couple of pheasants, strolling around the sun dappled fields alongside the railway track.
Birds galore, in fact.
When I was at primary school, many years ago, I can remember a day trip to Slimbridge Wetland Centre where we were introduced to the delights of bird watching.
Whilst that noble pursuit has never wormed its way onto my regular hobbies list, it did create an interest in the sheer variety of British bird life, an interest that had remained dormant throughout my time in Australia, waiting to be awakened early one morning.