LOCAL LINKS


Read LIFELINE

here (our village newsletter)


West Farleigh Sports Club for football, cricket & great parties


All Saints church services...


...and hall for hire


Loads of useful contacts 


Links along the valley: parishes, churches & halls


follow me on facebook

Follow us

on Facebook


Subscribe to our events email!

Lockdown Birdsong

Posted on 13th April, 2020

Possibly the only plus point in the current lockdown is that the world has become largely silent apart from natural sounds. Fortunately, now is the time of year when the world is anything but silent because we are surrounded by birdsong. An early morning jog around the village, or a stint in the garden, is accompanied by songs and calls from seemingly every tree or telegraph pole, rooftop, field or hedgerow. 

 

But for those who find the mixture of melody and timbre confusing, the sheer number of individuals contributing is frustrating, especially as many, like blackbird and song thrush for example, are similar. Learning to identify and differentiate a few species at a time, therefore, is a sensible strategy. In the case of the two in question, Robert Browning provided a clue 

 

That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,

lest you should think he never could recapture

the first fine careless rapture! 

 

Listen carefully, and he does indeed repeat short phrases two or three times, while the blackbird is less repetitive.

 

   

Song Thrush

 

                                                                  BlackbirdEven the cuckoo can be confused with a distant collared dove, which itself is easily confused with woodpigeon. The trick of separating the latter two is the collared dove’s annoyingly repetitive football chant of “U-Ni-Ted, U-Ni-Ted”

 

Collared Dove

 

The woodpigeon’s call can be rendered as a different drone: in Gloucestershire, where historically Welsh border raids resulted in the loss of cattle, it was a monotonous “take-two-cows, Taffy; take-two-cows, Taffy; two”.

 

Woodpigeon

 

We can thank Enid Blyton for helping us recognise the yellowhammer’s “little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheeeese”. Sung throughout the day, it is sometimes the only accompaniment to a drowsy summer afternoon when most other birds have fallen silent. An added delight is seeing the male’s head, lemon yellow against the dark green hawthorn leaves, protruding from the hedge.

 

Yellowhammer

Many species don’t have a convenient mnemonic to help us remember their song, but I sometimes find it helpful to create a mental picture of when and where I first connected a song to a species, like sitting next to a dense bramble patch in Suffolk where nightingales and a garden warbler were singing simultaneously. A magical moment, never to be forgotten.

 

Nightingale

Nightingale Bird Facts | Luscinia Megarhynchos - The RSPB

 

Garden Warbler

NB. Rarely seen or heard in gardens!

Nowadays, with a smartphone ever to hand, there are apps a-plenty to assist. Free ones are abundant, but come with abundant advertising too, and often with species you are never likely to hear. An app I have come to rely on is Chirp! Bird Songs UK and Europe, worth every penny of the £3.99 to download it. Simple to use, you can set it to UK species only, specify your habitat (a garden or moorland, for example) and has photographs to aid identification. Most helpfully, there is a ‘favourites’ function so that once you’ve mastered a species you can separate it for future reference.

 

Assuming you will be proud of your ability to distinguish your collared dove from your woodpigeon, and blackbird from song thrush when Lifeline is next published, I’ll provide a few more online hints for making the most of this, possibly unique, experience being forced upon us.

Make A Comment

Characters left: 2000

Comments (3)

Thanks for the comments!
You've set my imagination running Fiz. I remember those heady days of the Isle of Wight Festival. Was your name Kitty - and was that who your husband was referring to? And, in which case, why has your name changed to Fiz…………?
Great stuff thanks Ray really good idea and a lot of thought and time has gone into it!
Have to disagree though the woodpigeon sings 'it's your fault kitty' and has done since Isle of Wight festival when thats what my husband heard the morning after the night before!!!!
This is fabulous, great idea, thanks Ray