The Week in Radio: Early-bird David Attenborough goes down a tweet - Features - TV & Radio - The Independent

The Week in Radio: Early-bird David Attenborough goes down a tweet

 

Did I awake at two minutes to six on Monday morning – a Bank Holiday, no less – to hear David Attenborough's inaugural Tweet of the Day on Radio 4, so as to bring you a wholly authentic report of the listening experience? Did I heck.

It's on days like this that I give thanks for the miracle that is the iPlayer, which allowed your put-upon reviewer the full eight hours' kip plus a late breakfast, a leisurely lunch, a saunter around a gallery and a couple of Breaking Bad episodes before turning my attention to what I had missed on the radio. This, I am fairly certain, isn't what the BBC's Natural History Unit envisioned when they brainstormed their latest big wheeze: a series of shorts about British birds based on their songs. It's a terrific idea and, I have to admit, when I finally listened it was clear that I'd done it all wrong.

There was, of course, a palpable thrill to be had from hearing the springtime song of the cuckoo, famously the douche bag of the avian species due to its habit of squatting other bird's nests. But this was nothing next to hearing the mellifluous murmurings of Attenborough who, in quoting Wordsworth on cuckoos – "Shall I call thee Bird, Or but a wandering Voice?" – and reflecting on the bird's migration south to the dense equatorial forests of central Africa, offered instant balm to the ears and to the soul.

As ever, Attenborough spoke with the experience and authority that comes from having spent an inordinate amount of time standing on ice caps and surveying the slow disintegration of our planet with BBC film crews swirling around his head like wasps. Thus, I will listen to more of this birdsong-for-beginners course as early as I can muster, though perhaps not for the reasons that the producers intended. Living on the coast, from spring to late autumn, I wake up to the sound of seagulls on my roof that sound like two old ladies shrieking insults while walloping one another with handbags. So sod the birds. It's the voice of Attenborough I want to wake up to in the morning.

Where Tweet of the Day was determinedly minimalist, focusing on a single performer per broadcast, Radio 4's Living World went maximalist, capturing the whole damn orchestra. Here, the presenters were required to be ready – kagoules on, binoculars poised – at 3.30am though the programme was aired at a comparatively civilised 6.35am.

This week's episode came in the middle a wood in Coombes Valley in Staffordshire where presenter Trai Anfield and a man from the RSPB sat in anticipation of the dawn chorus. We heard from a tawny owl, a woodcock, wood pigeons, song thrushes, wrens, great tits, warblers and blackbirds. We also heard about the meaning of calls, notably that there's a whole vocabulary at work, from the contact call and the alarm call to the intensive set of notes, complete with baroque flourish at the end, that are essentially a big, loud "Hello, ladies" to anyone within tweeting distance.

"It's a little bit like freeform jazz," noted Anfield, whose sense of awe was infectious. "Everyone's just chipping in and getting warmed up." Twenty minutes later, as the birds were fully awake and giving it the full-throated vocal work-out, the presenter revised her description more aptly as a "a woodland opera. Every note seems to be loaded with meaning. There's drama in every song. They're struggling to find a safe home. They're competing to find and to keep a mate.... These are defining moments in these birds' lives. It's drama, it's life."

twitter.com/FionaSturges

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Arts and Entertainment
Queen Christina left the judges baffled with her audition
X Factor
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week