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Anne Hailes: How does a blue tit stream out its song without pausing for breath?

A blue tit – how lovely it is to listen to its song

HOW lovely it is to sit in the garden with your grandson and listen to a tiny blue tit stream out his song, never pausing for breath.

What?! How then does he do it? Does he hold his breath and then let rip?

We tried to work it out; the pause between trills didn't seem long enough for a breath. We were fascinated but flummoxed. But hold on a second, Anthony McGeehan will know for certain as he has been studying and photographing birds since he was a child, he writes for journals and newspapers all over the world and has written the most excellent books, a joy to read as he is a man of humour as well as great knowledge.

“Back to you soon, I am out a lot at the moment watching woodpeckers.”

Anthony has always been able to answer even the most obscure of my questions so he was the man to consult on how birds sing and breathe at the same time.

“Bird breathing is totally different from our 'in and out' breath. They move oxygen around the body continuously and actually have really small (proportionate to us humans) lungs," he says.

"Their system is to continuously push air around the system and extract oxygen at five different stages and parts of the body. It would be like topping up using an air line that never stops, rather than (as humans) using a two-step bellows.

"So, when a bird sings or vocalises, it is not actually inhaling or exhaling – it is simply blowing air through an organ called a syrinx where the air is manipulated (like playing bagpipes) to make the sound.

"Hence all manner of sounds can be produced by, not vocal cords, but muscle groups. So, in fact, the bird never runs out of breath and (I think) it may only get tired singing, if at all, through muscle fatigue – and nothing to do with running short of breath.”

Like Michael Caine said, not a lot of people know that...

:: This will only hurt a little bit

APART from the controversy over the Astrazeneca vaccine, there are people who just won't contemplate having the coronavirus injection.

Why? Because they have a phobia about needles which is not helped by television coverage of patients who are baring their arms and we see a close-up of the needle piercing the skin – it's hard to watch. Does no one think of these things?

I'm all for accurate information but I think the media in general and radio in particular have gone overboard throwing doubt on the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine. It's hard to pin down a number of blood-clot deaths – statistics seem to be all over the place – but here is what the World Health Organisation report says:

"The WHO, the medicines regulator in Europe and the UK's own medicines regulator have all said that Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine… is safe and emphasised that the benefits continue to outweigh the risks.

"The UK regulator, the MHRA, has studied 79 cases of people who developed specific types of blood clot linked to low platelet levels in the blood after receiving a first dose of the Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine, 19 of whom died. Blood clots after the vaccine are extremely rare. These 79 cases of blood clots are after 20 million doses of the vaccine, which is a rate of just four in a million."

The fear of clots has to be reported but not every minute of every day. I turn on early in the morning and 5Live features it; I go to bed and they are still on about it, frequently an hour devoted to questions and answers. Maybe a dose of the football debacle will provide some light relief.

I love the way Nicola Sturgeon pronounces ‘dose'. Dozze singular and dozzies plural.

:: I'm worried about Piers Morgan

HE SEEMS to be obsessed with Meghan Markle and has been very voluble about her and, as he sees it, her attack on the ‘institution' of the monarchy.

I wonder about his claim that a number of royal family members have sent him messages of thanks for his support. Mind you, I find her latest message concerning Prince Philip's funeral very objectionable. Issued by her Global Press Secretary, it read: "I can confirm that The Duchess will be watching from home as she was hopeful to be able to attend but was not cleared for travel by her physician at this stage in her pregnancy." How convenient.

The release went on to say how Harry and his grandfather "hold a unique connection in their shared active service – including in combat – as part of the British Armed Forces".

It then went on to list Harry's achievements. It also included a plug for the creator of the floral tribute she (or her Global Press Secretary) sent to the chapel.

It was an emotional funeral but I only shed tears when I saw Harry and William walking away chatting to each other. Regardless of who they are, to me it's extremely sad when such devoted brothers lose their love for each other.

Another man I dislike, Jeremy Clarkson, weighed in via his column in the Sun newspaper: Markle is "much revered by the young and the stupid who believe that her brand of simpering victimhood will one day bring down the monarchy, but it won't".

He argues that given everything the British monarchy has been through – "beheadings, affairs, abdications" – he is "fairly sure it'll be able to weather the banal musings of a silly little cable TV actress". What an ignorant man.

Get over yourselves, boys – a little goes a long way but I fear there will be more to come.

Perhaps it has forced a new look at the royals, with Charles having decreed that the monarchy will be revised and modernised. I hope we don't lose the colourful pomp and circumstance which is so entertaining to watch.

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