Birdsong Radio

by Kevin Alfred Strom

YEARS AGO I joked that the next niche radio format to be attempted would be continuous bird calls. I never imagined that it could actually happen, but it has, and the results are quite pleasant.

Apparently one of the Digital Audio Broadcast channels in Great Britain (yes, they have real over-the-air digital radio in the UK, not the dysfunctional “HD Radio” that the media moguls forced on this country) started broadcasting ambient bird calls and other natural forest sounds about a year ago, and it developed quite a following. (I have no idea if the station’s creator, Quentin Howard, ever heard of my decades-old suggestion or not.)

But the station has been axed by channel owner DigitalOne (a British quasi-governmental digital radio monopoly) and replaced by something described as “Amazing Radio, playing rock, indie, urban and jazz tunes,” according to the UK’s Independent newspaper. Ho hum.

Birdsong Radio began by broadcasting a 20-minute loop of chirps and tweets originally recorded for a stage play sound effect in 1991 at Howard’s home garden in West Lavington, Wiltshire. You can still hear that original loop at where station supporters have built a home on the Web. Another group of birdsong lovers has built an even more elaborate online station, with superb fidelity and a larger variety of recordings.

Howard says of the over-the-air station’s cancellation “I think it’s a bit of a stunt to get attention for the new radio station because there’s enough empty slots on digital radio for both. There’s a lot of very cross people out there.”

I find Birdsong Radio a delightful change from conventional radio, and its outdoors ambience will be augmenting the aural atmosphere of my office often in the future.