Return of the Birds combines a 19th Century nature study with 21st century audio of the birdsongs described in the charming narrative.
In short, Return of the Birds is the serialized audiobook podcast of Wake-Robin by renowned naturalist and essayist, John Burroughs.
Wake-Robin is 148-year-old nature study of various birds’ spring migrations, summer residencies and fall departures.
First published in 1871, Burroughs’s attention to detail and playful characterizations turns these birds into little individuals with personalities and emotions.
Burroughs wrote: “And what is a bird without its song? It seems to me I do not know a bird till I’ve heard its voice.”
And it’s exactly the way he describes their songs that captured me – I was curious to compare what he wrote with what the songs truly sounded like.
Working with the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Return of the Birds weaves dozens of field recordings into the narration to take these many parts and make something new, unexpected. Perhaps even something Burroughs might not have thought would ever be possible – pairing his observations with the sounds of songs he describes.
But why now? The original book highlights the give and take between humans and nature. Long before we could interpret our impact on the earth, Burroughs wrote about the critical relationship between people and the land. Then as now, birds are free. Free from borders or boundaries, yet are a key indicator of the health of our environment.
While protections are unwound, uncertainty grows and the din of discontent drowns out reason, debate and discourse. Some days can feel a little empty. Burroughs and his birds help buoy the spirit, and rise above the long, slow evaporation of hope and melting optimism.
Our goal is to help people recognize and value what we have, so we all can work harder not to lose it.
With support from the WDS Foundation, you can listen to Return of the Birds for free. And if you know someone who likes birds, likes to be outside, who might enjoy the podcast, please tell them about Return of the Birds. It would help our little show take flight.
We hope you join us. Till next time. Chirp away.