Last weekend I gardened to the accompaniment of the autumn song of the robin; he (or she, both sexes sing) was proclaiming from the rooftops and the tops of bushes.
It was the falling song which marks the falling of the year, punctuated by scolding tick ticks.
I learnt about this autumn song (and much else about birdsong which is so important to me) from my dear friend Rozel Lawlor, who died far too young two years ago. She told me about it on 5 September 2000. We were walking back from High House Waste (owned by the Dartmoor Preservation Association) on south-west Dartmoor and had reached the wide, walled track down to East Rook Gate when we heard in the corner of the wood that falling melody and Rozel said that’s what robins do in autumn. Penelope Lively mentions it in her novel The Photograph, setting the scene for a day which proved significant: ‘Everything about that day stood out in bold relief … In the garden, the sound of an autumn robin.’
It’s a sad song, but it marks the changing seasons – and it is significant for me too. I think of Rozel and our wonderful friendship and am enriched by it.