Sunday, 28 April 2013


Its that time at last, after what seems to been a long winter, spring has finally arrived with migrant birds streaming back up north. Some may say its spring when they see the first Swallow or Bluebell, but for me its  the birds singing.

Some birds like the Robin have been in song since last October, and some sing for a long time, well March - November like the Chiff Chaff.  But for most its only a few months in song so they can attract a mate, which makes it difficult for anyone trying to learn bird song. Trying to remember a song from last year is difficult and trying to put the song to an actual bird species is also hard. It comes with experience and being out in the field as often as possible to make sure you absorb the songs as much as possible.

Its great to be up early to catch the dawn chorus, the sound is amazing , but within a few hours of sunrise the song diminishes.

Tomorrow I am giving a talk to the Woodhouse Wildlife Group on bird song, after many requests, not just from members of this group but others as well. It would seem that people are interested in learning a few songs, a few at a time is best. Some you can describe, like the Yellowhammer - a little bit of bread and no cheese, or the Police car call of the Great Tit and some like the Wood pigeon- well what do you say. One calls down our chimney each morning much to the annoyance of our cat.

When we were in Shetland on our last visit we found a grasshopper warbler singing down at Virkie, this bird decided to stay a long time , calling throughout. This is an easy call - a reeling sound like that of a fly fisher mans sending out his line (or reeling), the other close one to this is the Savi's Warbler but this is higher pitched.
                                                          Grasshopper Warbler- Virkie

I also love the sound of Eider ducks and Puffins calling, I can listen all day. But the intention is to attract a mate, or to make a warning or perhaps a contact call if flying in a group. Like all things if you can see the bird and identify it when its singing it sticks better in the mind

Birds often use a high song post to spread their song over a wide area, or like the skylark sing from high up
as song posts are limited where they nest. Yet others like the Reed warbler singing from the depths of a reed bed or the booming of the Bittern is just as captivating.

All in all Spring is a great time for birds in breeding plumage's, for song and display when they might be more evident than the rest of the year. For some like migrant birds arriving from Africa or other areas we only see them for a few months before they fly south again.

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