Keats and Shelley understood the therapeutic benefits of birdsong, as they demonstrate in their respective odes to a nightingale and a skylark. Now medical science is recognising the health benefits of the dawn chorus. At Liverpool's Alder Hey hospital, an art project using recordings made by children, is being used to calm young patients as they receive treatment. The researchers found that children were less anxious about their treatment when the song was playing, and now the idea is to be researched further.
It is thought the calming sounds affects parts of the brain involved in emotion and can distract patients from the medical treatment about to happen. Some believe that playing bird songs may result in patients requiring less pain relief which could help them recover sooner after treatment. The project was put together by Chris Watson, who is a sound recordist with naturalist David Attenborough.
This passion for birdsong is no new thing. Two years ago, when digital radio station Oneword closed down, the frequency was kept open by the playing of birdsong. It proved to be far more popular than the radio station it replaced, attracting hordes of listeners. The digital station, which plays a looped 20-minute recording of bird chorus was only meant to be a temporary filler when it began transmitting in January last year. But it proved a smash hit and attracted half a million listeners and OneWord. Fans who adored the soothing calls of the blackbirds, swallows, pigeons and robins, launched several online petitions to make it a permanent fixture. Now station bosses say that they will keep Birdsong Radio alive for the foreseeable future. If you want to listen to the station, which transmits from 6am to midnight, you need a digital radio or you can access it online at www.birdsongradio.com .
Many people feeling the effects of stress try meditation and often use tapes of bird song to soothe them into a state of relaxation. These can be ideal, enabling you to get away from it all for a little while with a just set of headphones. But it’s worth remembering if you’re able to get outdoors that taking a walk or sitting under a tree can be every bit as therapeutic.