The comfort of hawthorn and song thrush

It is mid May, and the late evening sun sets below Hebridean island silhouettes and ocean waters, leaving a residue of light and brightness.


Late evening on a calm May day, rare this year, painted in turquoise, amber, gold and rose

Nights are thin and watery now. Winter deeps and darks and diamond encrusted, frosty midnights are banished. As we head towards June and the summer solstice the sun merely glides away, slowly and gently. Evening light is long, shimmering with glimmerings and lingerings; end of day airs are white and turquoise, amber and rose, bird-filled and insect-humming, when winds are slight.

Dawn and dusk are filled with singing: from hedges, fields, seashore and hill. The heady fullness of choral song is joyous but gradually even this colourful, aural tonic subsides as light fails. But wait, there, now, one voice remains. The songster perches high, proud, erect, his music full throated. He, and I presume this he is a he, is the soloist to the dimming chorus; his song is a bright, gilded, brim-full manuscript of meaning. No repetition here of simple ditty or sea shanty, this is a Mozart sonata, or song cycle of Wagnerian complexity!

On he sings to his much hoped-for-wife! Is he master story teller to us all, bird and beast, man and woman, as we settle down to sleep and dream delve? Or perhaps he heralds the oncoming antlered night walkers, webbed flyers and other whisperers of the night?

My open bedroom window allows this glorious melody in. Outside, atop a lonely hawthorn tree growing taller than the hedges of pine, broom, clematis and honeysuckle, master song thrush finds his voice. He sings to me then, I think, of life and growing things, of earth and sky, of light and warmth, and joy. I am cocooned in comfort and peace and slip into sleep to dream of music and colour.

Standing taller than the surrounding hedges, this lonely hawthorn is late to bloom

Standing taller than the surrounding hedges, this lonely hawthorn is yet to bloom

Each dawn, before the bursting hustle-bustle choruses of blackbird, robin, chaffinch and skylark there is his song again. Unaccompanied, loud, intense, exultant, euphoric. Early, early, he rises. Is it the night herself my song thrush is enchanted with, or is he master of enchantment, driving the darkness away? There is, perhaps, some deeper instinct at work here which heralds the awakenings of others. I have not known this before, this pre-dawn, pre-dawn-chorus rousing! A melodious stirring of tiny avian hearts and blood vessels by one feathered conjuror whose magic is unknowable.

The hawthorn blossom is late here this year. May has been cold and of all the trees and shrubs, the hawthorn seems to have been the most hard-pressed. Green leaves and tiny flower buds are emerging, and, while in the far south white and pink blossoms are fading, I am waiting for their heady scent with impatience.

Bright green leaves and tiny white buds of the hawthorn hint of warmer, late May days

Bright green leaves and tiny white buds of the hawthorn hint of warmer, late May days

There are not many hedges here but I am compensated by the vibrant aromas and colours of bog plants and expanses of wilderness, of sea and mountain vistas. So the hawthorn tree is precious; for me and the song thrush; and the landscape is all the richer for the blossoms and singing.

About Annie O'Garra Worsley

Hello there. I'm a mother, grandmother, writer, crofter & Professor of Physical Geography specialising in ‘environmental change'. I live on a smallholding known as a 'croft'. The croft is close to the sea and surrounded by the ‘Great Wilderness’ mountains of the NW Highlands. I was a fulltime mother, then a full-time academic living and working in north-west England. In 2013 we decided to try and live a smaller, simpler, wilder life in the remote mountain and coastal landscapes of Wester Ross. When I was a young researcher, I spent time in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea living with indigenous communities there. They taught me about the interconnectedness and sacredness of the living world. After having my four children I worked in universities continuing my research and teaching students about environments, landform processes and landscape change. Eventually, after 12 years, I moved away from the rigours of scientific writing, rediscovered my wilder self and turned to nature non-fiction writing. My work has been published by Elliott & Thompson in a series of anthologies called 'Seasons' and I have essays in several editions of the highly acclaimed journal ‘Elementum’, each one partnered with artworks by contemporary artists. I also still work with former colleagues and publish in peer-reviewed academic journals. I am currently writing a book about this extraordinary place which will be published by Harper Collins.
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1 Response to The comfort of hawthorn and song thrush

  1. beatingthebounds says:

    The hawthorn blossom has been really late here this year. We’re still waiting for some balmy nights like the ones you describe!


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