Oberon Matters
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Book Review - "Deep Listening to Nature" by Andrew Skeoch

July 11, 2024

You might expect a book about birds to have lots of photos, but this isn't a book about what birds look like, it's about what they sound like. The only picture of a bird is the one on the cover, the Southern Scrub-robin, which sounds like this.

Audio © Listening Earth

So what does the book have if it doesn't have pictures of birds? It has the sounds of birds - recordings of birdsong for every bird mentioned. Throughout the printed book there are small symbols indicating that a recording is available to go with the words (the digital version of the book contains links to sound files).

The book is an intensely personal account of how Andrew came to love the songs that birds sing, what those songs mean, how birds use song to communicate and build communities, and how all of this relates to the way we as humans interact with nature.

The flavour of the book can be found in Chapter 3 - "Nature Tells us Stories" - which describes a walk around Andrew's home, listing all the sounds that can be heard on the journey and how they relate to the environment at any particular place. It's about how we have to pay attention to what's happening and how nature pays attention back.

As an environmentalist, Andrew is rightly concerned about what we are doing to nature, not just the destruction of bird and animal habitats but the whole planet, and the later parts of the book talk about what we should do and should not do.

This is a difficult book to review and summarise, because its message requires more words than can fit here. The blurb on the back of the book provides a sort of a summary:

Deep Listening to Nature is an invitation to open our ears to the natural world.

Beginning by tuning in to the sound of creatures around us, Andrew discusses how to identify species by call, interpret their communications and find empathy for their sentience.

Part reflection, part nature and travel diary, Andrew asks the question: What does listening reveal about how the living systems of nature function, and why do birds in particular negotiate their interactions in such lyrical and extraordinary ways?

He concludes by suggesting we not only listen to learn about nature, but learn from nature. He asks how, in our current environmental crisis, we may mimic what the biosphere has achieved in sustaining life as we move toward an ecological future and in doing so, form a deeper and more personal connection to Country.

Andrew encourages us to be still and listen. Take our time. Extend our senses. Let nature get to know us, and in its own way, to welcome us.

This book is highly recommended, not just as a comprehensive story about birds but as a place to start thinking about the world, our place in it and the responsibility we have to preserve it.

You can buy a copy of the book from the Living Earth web site or borrow a copy from your local library. Go there! Get the book. You need it.

Paperback, 296pp
ISBN: 978-0-6457563-0-2
Published by Listening Earth, 2023

See also: Listening to Nature

About the Author

Andrew Skeoch is a natural communicator, equally at home in a formal presentation theatre or chatting spontaneously in the bush. Drawing on thirty years of field recording experience in wild locations around the world, Andrew not only invites us to listen more attentively to the sounds of nature, but offers the skills and insights that help us to do so. Taking his breadth of experience, he adapts it to multi-media presentations and field sessions suitable for a diversity of ages and audiences.

A coincidence? As I was writing this review I heard an unmistakable sound from the trees in the park next to my house. I grabbed the camera and went for a look.

Audio by Ken George via xeno-canto

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