As a bloke, I have been told, just once or twice, that I don't listen.  And that's a bit of a problem for a birdwatcher as many first records of species come by ear rather than eye.

It's a well known fact that as one ages one's hearing can become a bit dodgy - I said ONE'S HEARING CAN BECOME A BIT DODGY!!

The thin high-pitched tweets of goldcrests and treecreepers become more difficult to hear.  I know of birders who have lost the ability to hear cuckoos too.  And someone helping a research project by recording corn bunting songs was so hard of hearing that he had to turn on the tape-recorder when he saw the birds' beaks opening (resulting in a lot of useless recordings of birds recorded mid-song!).

An experience the summer before last made me think I was joining this group.  I was out with my daughter and she asked me what that buzzing sound was - I said it was just traffic noise.  A bit later she asked me again, and wondered whether it was the buzzing of an electric fence - I couldn't hear any buzzing!  A little further on and she asked me whether I could hear a buzzing noise - I couldn't.  And then she pointed to a grasshopper at my feet and asked whether I could hear that - I couldn't, even though I am told that it was really loud.  Those frequencies seemed to have dropped out of my repertoire completely.

Since then I have been wondering what else I am not hearing.  I can hear goldcrests - at least sometimes - maybe I am missing lots of them.  How would I know?

And since then I haven't heard any grasshopper warblers - and their reeling song is very much like the buzz of a grasshopper or cricket.  Those people who named them weren't daft!  And I do remember being with some birders who all claimed to hear a 'gropper' when I wasn't at all sure.  So is the lack of grasshopper warblers in my life due to a decline in my hearing or in their population?

Well, this weekend produced a partial answer.  I heard grasshopper warbler well at Stanwick Lakes on Saturday - and it was quite distant when I first noticed it.  And at another Northamptonshire birding spot, Summer Leys, I heard at least two grasshopper warblers on Sunday morning!  Yippee!  I can hear!  It's something of a relief.

Of course, although I can hear it doesn't mean that I listen!