Wild Air: In Search of Birdsong
A book about birdsong, from the critically acclaimed author of Raptor.
In Wild Air, James Macdonald Lockhart sets out to write about a series of birds as though he has his granny’s role of listening to birds’ songs and calls and relaying what she heard to her aged and by then quite deaf father – the famous naturalist Seton Gordon. From a nightjar’s strange churring song on a heath in the south of England, to a lapwing displaying over the machair in the Outer Hebrides, he writes about eight different birds who he has spent most time with, returned to most often and relays what he hears.
The eight species are all representative of a different habitat. Nightjars on a lowland heath; shearwaters on a mountain overlooking the sea; dippers on a river; skylarks in farmland; ravens in woodland; divers on a loch; lapwings on the coast; and nightingales in dense scrub. Not all of the birds are songbirds in the traditional sense, though each possesses its own distinctive music. That music can vary from the strange, as in the weird gurgling sound a shearwater makes inside its burrow, to the joyous exuberance of the skylark’s song. Sometimes, he hears a lot, and sees little (shearwaters in the pitch dark); sometimes he sees a lot, but hears little (black-throated divers on their loch). But in every case the sounds the birds make become an introduction to their lives – an audible introduction to the birds and the places they are found.