SONGS FROM THE WOOD by Chris Harris

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SUMMARY: This deals with one persons efforts to understand birdsong.

Songs From The Wood

Despite years of studies, nobody had cracked the code. Many individuals and groups, looking at the puzzle from a multitude of different angles, had all failed to solve the riddle. Birdsong it seemed might never give up its secrets.
Thomas Mills was one such researcher. He'd made a hobby of the subject but like the rest he was getting nowhere fast. Unlike the rest though, he was a man obsessed with the subject and one who truly believed in a final solution.
Living alone in the woods of Surrey, his home was his laboratory. Since taking an early retirement, the time he had to devote to his passion had trebled; in fact he did little else now. From dawn to dusk he was forever exhausting new leads.
He'd read all the books ever written on the subject. His library, which was the second bedroom of his house, was entirely devoted to the task of cataloguing this literature. To him it was a shrine to the beauty, mystery and enchantment of the birdsong of the wood.
Nearly all the authors of all the books were wrong. Just a handful had gained Tom's respect, the publications of the rest he read for amusement value alone. His favoured works, that is the books of the few, he kept on a separate shelf and referred to them constantly.
The key issue was that of birdsong being a collective language. His theory, as yet unproved, supported the idea that each bird sang a separate letter in a word. A group of birds would then create a sentence to which they were all contributing.
There were several major obstacles to overcome. Identifying the individual letters that each bird sang was complicated by each species singing that same letter differently. As letters were identified the problems of alphabet and language developed with the latter being shrouded in the mists of both level and topic.
Most researchers fell into the same trap. They assumed birds to be singing about sources of food or serenading potential lovers. Tape recordings would be made and played back through speakers in trees with the responses observed. Then, by a process of self deception and falsified statistics, the findings, or "Mumbo Jumbo" as Tom called them, were published.
Any serious researcher, if not instinctively, would soon learn to appreciate the complexities of birdsong. The time of day, the number of birds involved and the distances between them all seemed relevant. Perhaps even the strange and silent choreography of flight itself, contributed to the orchestral deliberations of the wood.
Advances had been made . Although of unknown length, the alphabet was now known to comprise of at least forty letters. Tom, himself being the discoverer of three, was now focusing more on words than finding new letters. Here too progress had been made with hundreds of groups of letters or words now being accepted by the scientific community.
The problem was that the words didn't say anything. There was no correlation to sounds being sung and physical events or responses thereafter.

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