Afloat on birdsong, hawthorn petals and young leaves
May 16, 2021

The Clerical Heron

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What is it about the heron that makes it such a frequent subject for social media posts featuring canal and riverside birds? There is something about it that is strange, singular almost. Spotting one is often felt to be a significant event that should be recorded and remembered. This week we look at the heron in the company of Dylan Thomas, John Moriarty, and Wendell Berry, and explore why it has such an impact on us.  

Journal entry:

“15th May, Saturday

There are times, sitting here, that stillness seems to fill the boat
 Like morning light 
 Pooling and seeping into every corner and crack. 
 It’s not silence 
        Nor even a quietness
 - Though it is both of those.

And all I can hear is Penny softly breathing,
 My pen scratching on paper,
 A wood pigeon’s lazy call.

Even the second-hand on the clock seems to move slower.”         

Episode Information

All the soundscapes featured in this episode are all recorded on site apart from the sample of the grey heron (Ardea cinerea) night call. This was recorded at Berkel en Rodenrijs, Lansingerland, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands by Susanne Kuijpers on the night of 10th May 2021. It is available under Creative Copyright licence at Xeno-Canto: Sharing bird sounds from around the world.  

In this episode I read a passage from John Moriarty’s (2007) What the Curlew Said: Nostos continued. University of Michigan: Lilliput Press. 

I also read ‘The Heron’ by Wendell Berry that can be found in his (2018) anthology The Peace of Wild Things: And other poems. London: Penguin Books

The book I refer to by Richard Jeffries (1879) is his Wildlife in a Southern County of which many versions exist. It has recently been republished, with an introduction by Richard Mabey by Little Toller – Wildlife in a Southern County.


General Details

In the intro and the outro, Saint-Saen's The Swan is performed by Karr and Bernstein (1961) and available on CC at

Two-stroke narrowboat engine recorded by 'James2nd' on the River weaver, Cheshire. Uploaded on 23rd June 2018. Creative Commons Licence. 

Piano interludes composed and performed by Helen Ingram.

All other audio recorded on site. 

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