Scott Hollifield: Attack of the chirping invisible robot birds | lifestyle - petsitterbank

Scott Hollifield: Attack of the chirping invisible robot birds | lifestyle


A recent study indicates the sounds of nature may improve mental health and help us relax and recover in these stressful times.

I can report from personal experience the sounds of two dogs barking at chirping invisible robot birds do not.

A March 23, 2022 news release the University of Exeter in the UK said this: “The sounds of nature could help us recover from mental fatigue, but this power may be under threat as ecosystems deteriorate and people disconnect from the natural world…

“Led by a team from the University of Exeter, the study analyzed data from over 7,500 people collected as part of the BBC’s multi award-winning series, Forest 404, an eco-thriller podcast that depicted a dystopian world devoid of nature.”

Those taking part in the study listened to a variety of nature sounds, some with animals and some without.

“Participants reported therapeutic effects from listening to landscape elements such as breaking waves or falling rain,” according to the news release. “Hearing wildlife in these environments, and birdsong in particular, enhanced their potential to provide recovery from stress and mental fatigue even further.”

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Around this time, I was an unwitting participant in a similar experiment.

Our household received a bird clock for Christmas, a similar yet higher tech version of the old cuckoo clock.

At the top of every hour during daylight, a different set of chirping bird sounds off, cheerfully reminding you that time is slipping into the void and you will never get back those 59 minutes between the Wood Thrush and Common Yellowthroat you spent arguing with a stranger on Facebook.

Before putting ours on the wall, I checked Amazon reviews to see how others liked their bird clocks.

Many did, such as this satisfied customer: “I bought this clock for my dad for a Father’s Day gift. He is an avid bird watcher and also happens to love clocks. He put it on the wall next to his cuckoo clock and it fits right in. The sounds are very close to what you would hear from the actual birds. He loves feeling like he has even more birds around than what he gets outside his kitchen window.”

Here’s who did not have the same reaction. Two dogs who live in a house that got a bird clock for Christmas.

When it chimed the first time – I believe it might have been a Red-winged Blackbird – the dogs exploded into a cacophony of angry barking and frantic tail-chasing, as if the mail carrier had arrived at the same time the phone rang and a teen evangelical team knocked on the door with a handful of tracts.

It took them 15 minutes to settle down, which was just 44 minutes away from the robotic song of the Yellow Warbler, which ignited yet another canine outburst.

“The birds are in the house! They are going to peck our eyes out and steal out snacks! The birds are in the house!”

Did this provide me with “recovery from stress and mental fatigue,” as the University of Exeter nature-sound study found?

Uh, no. Here, nature was in conflict. The dogs hated the birds. The birds would not shut the hell up. I could not figure out how to open the battery cover to persuade them to do so.

Thankfully, nature adapts. The dogs eventually learned the invisible chirping robot birds were not going to peck their eyes out and steal their snacks.

Nowadays, the clock sounds off with little to no reaction from the dogs. No barking. No frantic tail chasing. We all enjoy the soothing sounds of nature, relaxing and recovering in these stressful times — at least until the mail carrier arrives at the same time the phone rings and a teen evangelical team knocks on the door with a handful of tracts.

Scott Hollifield is editor of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at


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