Country diary: a battle to protect birdsong and biodiversity

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Otley, West Yorkshire: A planned development of 550 homes and a major new road could permanently damage local wildlife

As the days build and brighten, so does the background texture of birdsong, which gathers vibrancy with every passing week. It was subtle at first; a new vitality in the sound of robins and wrens, noticeable not long after new year. But in more recent weeks, blackbirds, goldfinches, curlews, song thrushes and skylarks have entered the fray, threading new colours into the overall sound tapestry of Wharfedale.

The auditory landscape is full of newness, signalling the approach of spring, even as the physical landscape still feels wintery and – scatterings of snowdrops aside – largely inert. On a wander through the fields to the east of Otley, my ears pick up a new knot of melody in a wider chorus of sparrows and garden birds, and I wade into a swathe of scrub to investigate.

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