Listening to birds is one of the things I like best about every day and I like watching them, too, as Diana and I did yesterday while sitting and talking under a pohutakawa tree for so long the birds who had flown away all returned and got on with their lives above us. But all I am seeing is birds, not particular birds with personalities – I can tell the difference between a tui and a blackbird but not between one blackbird and another, and I can’t tell anything about a particular bird’s personality by watching it. Yet when I think of how individual each of my hens is, it must be true that each blackbird has a quite distinct personality, quite unlike any other blackbird. The song that Keats’s nightingale sang may have been the self-same song that another nightingale sang to Ruth when she stood in tears amidst the alien corn, and there is something consoling in thinking of us still hearing the same bird songs now that people heard centuries ago, but the individual bird that sang then was irreplaceable, one of a kind, with its own world map of everything it knew, and with its own quite individual personality.
These are paragraphs without essays or books to go in.