The neighbour’s tree is pushed into the shredder one branch at a time, making an infuriating noise. Their garden has already been fully tiled, and this tree is one of the remaining two I could see from my window. The tree offered shade and coolness in the summer and shelter in the winter for the flocks of pigeons who are now attempting to colonise our balconies. As a student of Forest and Nature management, I hardly qualify as a tree-hugger, as the ecosystem trumps the wellbeing of a single tree. Still, this hurt.
The tall tree must make way for a second shed in the tiled paradise so that the neighbour can cut his tiles there on Saturday and Sunday mornings. And thus, the sound of the birds in the tree (not just pigeons, there were also wrens and different chickadee types on an average day) was replaced by a sharp, mechanical whining that invades the brain and makes focusing on even the simplest task almost impossible.
The tall tree must make way for a second shed in the tiled paradise
I escape the grinding noise by escaping to Drenthe for a short while. Field work for my thesis. Finally. I study birds in the woods next to National Park Dwingelderveld. ‘This spot was declared the quietest place in the Netherlands last year by a foundation for people with sensitive ears or something’, my father claims. And it generally is extremely quiet, except for the sound of the birds. There is a space telescope located at the edge of the large heath field. The telescope listens to sounds from outer space, the most sensitive ear in the Netherlands.
Birding for a week. I am wearing a thick coat, hiking shoes, beanie, scarf and gloves. Scope and writing pad at the ready. Completely void of form and gender, I feel great. I am neither man nor woman. I am a field worker. I count the birds passing by at a number of locations and jot down what type and other relevant information. It is two degrees, and my breath comes out as fog. I await the first bird. What was the difference between a willow tit and a marsh tit again?
I am granted half an hour of peace and quiet before it begins: the wailing of a chainsaw
I am granted half an hour of peace and quiet before it begins: the wailing of a chainsaw that echoes through the entire forest. The heath must be recovered, which means trees must be felled, according to the signs. My ecologist’s mind yields to my inner tree-hugger. I don’t know whether heath is better than forest, and certainly not for biodiversity. The chainsaw makes an awful sound drowning out the sound of the birds. Luckily, I need not worry about the birds. They remain unfazed by the chainsaw disturbing the quietest spot in the Netherlands.
Ilja Bouwknegt is 24, ba bachelor’s student of Forest and Nature Management, and an active member of the study association WSBV Sylvatica. She sometimes does bat research at night.