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Tweet of the Day

Wednesday 24 April 2013, 09:33

Sarah Blunt Sarah Blunt Senior Producer

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Song Thrush Tweet of the Day

The Natural History Unit Radio Office is always alive with a strange twittering; a buzz about birds, especially at this time of year when spring finally heaves itself out from under the blanket of winter and our feathered friends begin to sing to mark their territories and attract a mate. It starts with our resident species, birds like the Great Tit bellowing out “teacher, ,teacher, teacher,… “  the Blackbird (arguably the best songster in town) and the robin. Then we wait with eager anticipation (especially this year) for the migrant birds like the Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap and before you know it, there’s a babble of song it seems from every wood, hedge, tree and roof top aerial and the air is filled with sound.

Even though many of us wouldn’t describe ourselves as keen birdwatchers, twitchers or ornithologists, who doesn’t enjoy hearing birds in their garden? But don’t you often wish you knew who was singing? For centuries birds have been inspiring writers and musicians from Beethoven to Britten, Vivaldi to Vaughan Williams. After all, birds are composers; they were making music long before us.

So given that there are well over 500 species listed as British birds, our Natural History Radio team struck on the idea of a series which featured a different call or song on every day of the week, and Radio 4’s ‘Tweet of the Day’ was born.

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In the first of a new series, David Attenborough introduces the cuckoo.

Brett Westwood, producer, presenter and naturalist extraordinaire set about the task of allocating our British birds, first to months in which we’re most likely hear them and then each bird to a day. Meanwhile I hauled bag after bag of recordings from the Natural History Unit sound library up several flights of stairs to my ‘eyrie’ office and listened to over 1000 recordings to see which we might use. Amongst them were wonderful old recordings by one of the pioneers of wildlife recording, Ludwig Koch, but there were also gaps … lots and lots of gaps! So we recruited a team of superb wildlife sound recordists; Gary Moore, Geoff Sample and Chris Watson and set them the task of capturing sounds for the series, (as well as raiding their own archives!).

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David Attenborough presents the song and story of the nightingale.

Then Brett started writing the scripts. We wanted the programmes to be short – like a snatch of song  - a tweet – just 90 seconds; opening with the song or call followed by a story about the bird. And there’s no shortage of stories; everything from fascinating ornithological facts to fanciful folklore, and from astounding feats of endurance to tales of theft and fraud.

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David Attenborough presents the sound and story of the storm petrel.

Sir David Attenborough agreed to narrate the first month and everyone swung into action; microphones to the ready, the recordings began. We’re making this series as I write; the whole team is involved with the programmes and website, blogging and tweeting. So far from a mild twittering in the office, there’s a great orchestra of sound; as we capture the calls and songs of more than 260 British birds!

Tweet of the Day - full details

Tweet of the Day - presenters and recordists

BBC Nature

All imagery has been provided by the RSPB

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Finnish radio have been doing this for years, with 'bird-of-the-week' song between programmes.
    Yes.it's like old times-intervals between programmes. In the days when milk came in paper-based carotns rather than plasric bottles the picture and brief details of each week's bird would be printed on the cartons, to be read whilst consuming your breakfast on the way to school.

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    Comment number 2.

    I hope these will be downloadable, like 'From Our Own Correspondent' is...

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    Comment number 3.

    What a wonderful way to start the day. Ludwig Koch's writings and recordings are wonderful, and I also think that Geoff Sample's approach is very suitable for this sort of broadcast....

    In Margate, where I come from, the town team has been working with the sound artist, Robert Jarvis. Again, he has been working with birdsong, but this time surreptitiously broadcasting the sounds from different shop windows along the High Street so it sounds like the birds calling out to each other throughout the day. This of course has cheered up the street's atmosphere considerably, but the main surprise for everyone is that the birdsong also seems to have had an influence on what used to be the all too common unruly behaviour. This has now stopped thanks to Robert's sound installation.

    A short BBC report on the project can be heard at: http://db.tt/ycmyPO68

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    Comment number 4.

    Great idea, but the timing is all wrong. This is the sort of thing I need at 07:50. I will be listening to most of the "Tweets" online. I think David Attenborough should have referred to the bird by its proper name - the Common Cuckoo. Some listeners might form the impression that there is only one sort of cuckoo in the world. There are many and they are not all obligate brood parasites. But what about the female, what sort of noises does she make?

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    Comment number 5.

    I hear more birds than I see - so I find anything about bird song far more helpful than field manuals and drawings.
    Thank you for tweet of the day, it is both fascinating and useful.
    The Sound Approach to Birding is a good series of books covering bird identification by song.

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    Comment number 6.

    But doesn't all this birds, and what must also be- flowery and butterfly things reek of an enervating pastoralism with its attendant entrails of fawning paints, sickly poesies, mawkish givings, and pukesome bletherings-now that the millennia of it all should be ditched at our rediscovery and affirmation of our fierce as a wielded flint axe neanderthal roots.
    Let them forsake the British Isles and fly and flutter away; and the aftermath of the flowers is welcome to its scorched brown.
    White doves, gay petals, and sweet nothings don't do nothing to a boggle eyed crowd of wannabe cro magnums howling at the cave boulder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    I’ve got a ‘Creaky Gate’ (Great Tit) singing in my garden right now. He’s just got a new job (after 4 months on Job Seeker’s Allowance), so I won’t offer him my oil can and spoil his delight at being back in employment. Some bird related songs: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7]. N.B. No whistling along to the late Ronnie Ronalde if you are girl.





    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zj5aZdeHsIQ (RIP)



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    Comment number 8.

    This is great. It will remind of my home country, and also help me with bird recognition.

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    Comment number 9.

    I am glad that the BBC in their Bird-related Tweet of the Day have used the same wonderful picture (albeit inverted) of a Song Thrush singing with all its might by the photographer Chris Gomersall that I originally used for my book of 50 bird poems entitled 'Bird Words: Poetic Images of Wild Birds' published by Brambleby Books in 2003 (pp 80). There are two poems about this bird in the book, the first 'Song Thrush Song', as below, the other 'Bird Words?, an interpretive written description of a song thrush's song with all its complexity, urgency, myth and pathos...and perhaps irony.

    - Song Thrush Song –

    Hidden amongst
    Hawthorn brush
    Clothing a distant ridge
    Or high up, perhaps,
    In an Ash tree,
    Old and tall,
    Whose stately silhouette
    Is poetry itself,
    The Song Thrush -
    In fine voice and feather -
    Bewails us all
    This late Spring
    With its melodious cry;
    A stark collection of tunes -
    Both ecstatic and plaintive -
    A song
    At once
    Too ethereal and wry
    To wholly enjoy,
    And yet,
    I myself,
    Like many,
    Would be the poorer
    Were it and its speckled composer
    And forever,

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    This was brought to my attention by a senior resident in a Nursing Home in Dumfries where I run Activities. Having started a Nature Watch at the beginning of the year and featured in Reporting Scotland's coverage of The Big Garden Bird Watch, this once again proves the benefits of using bird watching as an incentive towards keeping mentally agile in our older years. We are now all looking forward to Tweet of the Day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Ah, the Songthrush.

    We don't see any round here any more: the increase in young couples living together, but not having children seems to have spawned a fashion in keeping cats. In turn, these kill or deter many of the songbirds, especially thrushes it seems.

    Accordingly, we gardeners are now subject to a plague of snails, like those in many parts of the land. I'm not sure what the next link, in this chain of consequences might be, but it's curious to think it probably began with the economic circumstances of young couples, so could perhaps be blamed on...bankers.

    Whatever, I wonder if the natural history section of the BBC could perhaps subtly discourage the keeping of cats, especially in rural or semi rural areas.

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    Comment number 12.

    I can only assume that @6 was being ironic. Even in my very urban setting I can still enjoy the likes of Blackbird, Wren and Goldfinch singing away. And btw it is Cro-Magnon

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    Comment number 13.

    My wife and I heard the first tweet of this brilliant series live this morning. However, she has just commented that she is a little disappointed that the first tweet was not "the nations favourite bird". My wife's name is Sally and my first name is ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I was eagerly looking forward to Tweet of the Day having heard all the trails. I'm so disappointed it's only on at 5.58 am. I know it's downloadable but it's not the same - don't want to boot up the computer every day just for this. You should repeat it at least twice more per day - better for learning to recognise the songs, too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I suppose, instead of, or perhaps better, as well as, switching on your radio at 5.58 am, you could always open your window at 5 am (or earlier these days).

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    What a wonderful project, dear BBC Team! I so much enjoy hearing birds around our small garden. What is more, precisely before tuning here now, I had just finished some lines wherein birds' voices and movements are echoing. Please allow me to share with and dedicate these to your Team.

    "Birds flutter their wings
    With joy when the swallow sings
    And foolishly rehearse their flight
    Undulating, nigh reaching the sky's height
    Until the swallow to the Tree clings."


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