"At this time of year, blackbirds never simply fly: instead, like reluctantly retired officers, they're always 'on manoeuvres', and it's easy to see from their constant agitation that for them every flower bed is a bunker, every shed a redoubt and every hedge-bottom a potential place of ambush"
As the world went silent in lockdown, something else happened; for the first time, many of us started becoming more aware of the spring sounds of the birds around us. Birdsong in a Time of Silence is a lyrical, uplifting reflection on these sounds and what they mean to us.
From a portrait of the blackbird – most prominent and articulate of the early spring singers – to explorations of how birds sing, the science behind their choice of song and nest-sites, and the varied meanings that people have brought to and taken from birdsong, Birdsong in a Time of Silence ultimately shows that natural history and human history cannot be separated. It is the story of a collective reawakening brought on by the strangest of springs.
Steven Lovatt is a birder, writer, critic and teacher, based in South Wales. His creative and critical writing has been widely published, including in Little Toller's online magazine The Clearing (of which he was also co-editor), Critical Survey and the New Welsh Review. This is his first book.
"A delightful meditation on the wonder of birdsong, and how it helped us at a moment of crisis"
– Stephen Moss
"Gentle, playful, poetic and profound, Steven Lovatt reminds us of the beauty, solace and song to be found in all our neighbourhoods"
– Patrick Barkham
"This is a joyous and profound meditation on birdsong and what it means to us, a book that brings to life an essential part of the natural world that most of us take so much for granted that we scarcely notice it"
– PD Smith, Guardian (Book of the Day)
"Lovatt's approach is fresh, joyful and uncomplicated. Birdsong in a Time of Silence recalls a spring we will never forget but also reminds us that the pandemic grew out of our disregard for nature, and could presage ecological disaster"
– Nicola Chester, Financial Times
"This is a lyrical, exhilarating work of utter loveliness"
"Beautifully observed [...] exhilaratingly original [...] [Written with] exquisite prose that soars as high as his beloved birds"
– Bel Mooney, Daily Mail
"[...] Lovatt is not a scientist and you won't find any graphs, tables, sonograms or source notes in this book. However, he is a birder with a good understanding of current ornithological science. The factually informative and playfully fanciful are all in the mix. [...]
This book is an example of contemporary nature writing at its best by an author who only occasionally strays into the ‘over purple’ zone of the lyrical spectrum. It will be enjoyed by many from the general reader to keen naturalist. It is also a useful record of how lockdown looked, sounded and felt. It is Lovatt's first book. We can look forward to the next."
– Barry Gray, Ibis, 2021