The Joy of the Dawn Chorus

"Brave Tim" was never seen again...

Perhaps surprisingly, I have met people who find the sounds of birds singing to be “annoying” or “irritating”. Now, growing up with a pair of rescued chickens – one, a mean rooster called Floyd – I can completely understand how one could develop a sense of seething anger at a 2 am wake up call by a feathered fiend whose internal clock was consistently off. And that was his best trait. Floyd could give a Thai kickboxer a run for his money.
And yet, he wasn’t the worst offender.
In a case of incredible foreshadowing, on a bright sunny day, my mother decided – long after both Floyd and Babette had passed on after suffering (apparently) heart trouble during a nasty thunderstorm – a cute little gosling arrived; ostensibly for my younger brother. If memory serves, there were some names being thrown around for our latest family member. My brother had an extravagant streak for naming pets after 16th century poets or priests or generals. In the end however, the extremely affectionate little goose was dubbed Ambush. To this day, I believe there has never been a more appropriate name bestowed…ever. Just think about all that word entails. Ambush.
For those of you lucky enough to have never encountered a goose, first of all, keep it that way, and second, there are a few things to know about geese, not least of all, the Romans used to keep them as guard “dogs”. Here are some other pertinent pieces of information if you happen to cross paths with the Devil’s spawn cloaked in the Siren’s song of soft white feathers. “Touch me,” they call sweetly.
Point One: Those wings pack a punch. And the evil little brain that is connected to them operates on one assumption: When a human is in range, wings will always be deployed for maximum damage. No peacockery here. Those sledgehammers have been reported to break bones.
Point Two: When not foraging for food, the beak is a Stab-Grip-Twist weapon that NEVER leaves the victim unmarred. It is also the perfect vice to trap said victim in close proximity for, of course, Point One.
Point Three: The word “honk” used to describe the baleful sound of a goose is a misnomer of gigantic proportions. “Honk” conjures up images of quaint old motor vehicles with hand operated horns. The sound exploding from a pint-sized T-Rex could more appropriately be referred to as an ear-rupturing, rage-fuelled, bellow. The hiss that almost always precedes the roar of hate, is a spiteful and often brief warning that carnage is about to ensue. Honestly, let’s do away with the science fantasy of the family of Anatidae. I hereby proclaim “Biblical” to be the most accurate classification of these escapees from hell. As in “Biblical Plague” or “Biblical Retribution”.
Ambush? Yes. Full Frontal Assualt? Also, yes.
Having said all this, you must be expecting an enormous chip to have formed on my shoulder or, at the very least, the development of some kind of chronic trauma. You might also be questioning my use of the title of this post.
Hold your horses. I’ll get to that.
The truth about Ambush is, despite his repeated attempts to assassinate me whilst I wrangled him into his bedding for the night (for his own #$%&ing safety, I might add) and his boisterous blaring of that godforsaken horn of his, he was a part of the family and a source of hilarity when my brother’s friends became the victims of his considerable arsenal. Let me assure you that the saying, “It’s always funny until someone gets hurt,” is easily corrupted with the removal of “until” and the inclusion of “…when someone else…” Even to this day, the sound of a goose, while sending shivers down my spine, also makes me smile.
“So after all that, what the hell is going on with a post about the dawn chorus when not a single thing about it has even been mentioned?!” I hear you say. Well, the short of it is, I’m baffled by people who don’t like the sounds of the small, angelic birds who greet the sun with love in their hearts. And that’s coming from an Ambush survivor of many life threatening and noisy encounters!
On an early winter’s morning before the sun had arrived, I found myself cold and slightly perturbed by an odd call emanating from the barely visibly treeline across the Kiso river; a kilometer or two away from where the Maruyama dam slams its towering concrete brakes on the water’s unimpeded progress. Yes, that was a long sentence. Yes, the non-existent segway was jarring. But, as you want to know more about the dawn chorus and less about the – in my opinion – much more exhilarating encounters with beasts from the underground, I thought I might finally get to it. So there I was, with the distinct impression I was yet again the target of a sinister bird species. A feeling of dread began to wash over me.
Was I about to become one of those souls that disappeared into wilderness in the clutches of something Wes Kraven could have only dreamed of conjuring?
Scenes from the movie The Mist fell all over themselves piling up inside my brain. Or were these aliens, using their otherworldly calls to strategize how best to ensnare the moron with microphones on the opposing bank? I’ll include the recording I barely escaped alive with at the bottom of this harrowing tale. And I kid you not, as I was listening to the sonic challenge codes rippling across the river’s surface, a freaking goose and some sort of weird companion flew right down the river in front of me; honking – I mean bellowing – its way to cause untold devastation on some unexpecting village. At which point, I was asking myself if I had fallen face-first into a collection of magic mushrooms.
And then, as the surroundings shed their gowns of shadow, and the cleansing light of a new day painted the mountains and trees with golden hues, and the birds – and I mean the non-demonic, regular birds… and crows, I suppose – began to sing with what can only be described as joy, everything became right with the world once again; at least in my little corner of it.
Please take a moment to listen to the recording. See if you can hear the bubbles of gas popping on the river’s surface like an honest-to-goodness witch’s cauldron. This is not a sound design project. It is as it occurred (albeit condensed for the online version), flying psychedelic goose and weirdo buddy included. Oh, and I’ve tacked on a little surprise from my tortured past as well. The real McCoy!
And last of all, if you haven’t heard a dawn chorus for a while – or even ever – get out in nature, take whatever recording device you have and bask in the aural beauty of thousands of birds giving thanks for surviving another night in the midst of a creepy alien bird invasion.
The following clip is a condensed version of a much longer track. You might want to turn down the volume when our anti-hero makes his entrance at the end. Now, click to experience the magic and the TERROR!
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