Saturday, May 6, 2023

Still Life with Robin: Would somebody turn down the volume on those birds! Part 2: Update & thank-you!

American Robin
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)
by Peggy Robin

Wouldn't ya know it -- the very next night after writing about the problem of early morning bird noise (in last week's Still Life with Robin column), I was hardly disturbed by the high-decibel tweeting and chirping that had broken my sleep for many nights before. Yes, I was still awakened at around 5:30am but the volume was nowhere near as loud and the duration not as long as it had been the previous times. If I hadn't been in the habit of waking up around 5~5:30, I probably would have slept through it. I fell back to sleep quickly and barely remembered the wake-up when I got up for real at 7:00.

The night after that, the early morning bird noise was at a lower volume still. I heard it faintly in a half-sleep and didn't even get out of bed.

The third night after my column ran....nothing! Silent night! The birds and their noise had vanished into the ether. And haven't returned.

I'm thinking of this as an instance of what I call, "the doctor's appointment cure." It's what happens when I have a minor but annoying medical condition -- a cough, say, or a mysterious bump or swelling, or a pain that bothers me for some days or weeks. It's just bad enough to cause a bit of worry but not bad enough to make me fear something's seriously amiss. But it persists for just long enough for make me think I ought to have a doctor take a look at it. So I make an appointment and I'm given a date and time to come in. Suddenly, often overnight, the condition is healed! Just making the appointment seems to be the cure.

Sometimes, I'm not entirely sure that the bothersome thing has fully gone away, and so I don't cancel the appointment, but by the time I am waiting in the doctor's examining room, it really is so much better that I just have to say to the doctor, "Believe me, there was this big, raised bump right HERE!" The doctor then looks at me with that "why are you wasting my valuable time?" expression, and I silently vow, the next time I put the "doctor's appointment cure" to the test, to cancel the appointment the minute I notice any sign that the symptom has eased.

However, if writing about the bird noise is what made it go away, I can't say I've wasted anyone else's time. I got so many great responses to the column -- and I do want to thank everyone who took the time to write. The replies fell into three distinct categories, all of them good. Let me share them with you now. 

1. Commiseration and fellowship. I received quite a few notes from people letting me know that bird noise at 5 in the morning is not beloved. A few of you have been secretly thinking dark thought of avicide! Or maybe just thinking of scaring those feathered noisemakers away to somebody else's yard. They're not proud of these thoughts; they just wanted me to know it's OK to have them. It was good to hear from people in the same boat -- even though these correspondents were not offering any practical suggestions to deal with the problem.

2. Helpful hints. Don't give up on the white noise machine -- that was the number one practical piece of advice I received. There may be other white noises that will work better to mask the sound than the ones that I'd tried and abandoned as worse than the bird-noise. Try running a fan in the bedroom, one person advised. Or better still, get a HEPA air cleaner, which, in addition to making a nice whooshing sound that will cover up the tweeting, will at the same time clean dust, pollen, and viruses out of the air. Another person said leaving the TV on at a low volume worked for her. 

3. Information. If you must live with the bird noise, you might as well find out who's making the sound, and what it means. Several of my correspondents recommended using Merlin, the free bird-sound identifying app developed by the ornithology department at Cornell: One person wrote to say she was pretty sure I was hearing robins. They're rather territorial and can make quite a racket when telling other robins to stay out of their space. Well, of course they are! As a Robin, I understand how much you love your home and how vocal you must be in its defense! If that was the reason behind the racket, I have to respect it. They are my peeps, after all!
Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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