Not quite a Nightingale. This song was full throated, but without the seemingly endless variety of its relation; this was the song of the Blackcap. This morning we had the chance to stop and watch for a few minutes. The male was perched in full view on a Hawthorn. They usually sing from a perch with a bit more cover, throwing their strong voices and using the natural echoing acoustic of the scrub. But this morning he had adopted an more exposed perch. From where we stood some 10 yards away, the full throated effort and its resultant volume was apparent. Each verse seemingly ending with the same short phrase tooey-tooey-tooey-tooo, then a pause, before embarking on another convoluted tune. Oblivious to us he continued until we slowly walked on at which point he briefly retired deeper into the scrub, before resuming at our passing.

In a gentle but persistent summer rain, a Garden Warbler sings from the cover of the upper branches of a tall Birch tree. Spirit resilient, it’s territorial claim continues. In early June the birds’ need for display and defence of territory overcomes the impact of weather. The song, short phrased, fluting and slightly plaintive is subtly different from its near-relative, the Blackcap. The Blackcap, to my ears, produces a song of similar duration but seems to add a clear final phrase each time. This aids recognition. Although it is never easy to achieve any match in words, the ending phrase goes something like “sooey sooey sooey soo” and follows whatever complex warbling the bird conjures up beforehand.

Welcome cacophony

April 8, 2011

The cacophony of bird song is moving to a higher level. This Sunday mornings’ spring sunshine has introduced new songs. The complicated and attractive songs of two more of the Warbler family are now part of the soundscape. They sing as if they have been doing so for weeks, but this really is the beginning of their spring campaign. The Blackcap is the first of them ;  from a position deep within the gardens towards the church the powerful song is a full throated tuneful whistle with a characteristic ending (which I can only write as suey suey suey sue..).  Almost Nightingale like in its intensity, but with less of the master’s variety. 

The second is the Garden Warbler, another complicated song, this time from the anonymous depth of a bramble patch on the railway line. This morning’s effort was more a sub-song, a practice effort following a long journey whilst the confidence is being built for the real thing.

As I sit to write this and unusual call for Brampton drifts across the railway line – this is the unmistakeable “keeyow” of a Buzzard. Yet to be seen, but now anticipated.

Surfing the spring

March 23, 2011



As a song it would win no prizes. The ‘song’ is a repetitive two note announcement that the trees are shortly to come into leaf. So remarkably dull is the song that the bird is named after it – what else is there to say? The Chiffchaff is a warbler, relatively nondescript with a seemingly green hue above and a paler buff coloured chest. It’s close relations such as the Blackcap and the Willow Warbler have slightly more elaborate songs which are welcome in any garden. The Chiffchaff on the other hand, sounds so disappointing and even slightly irritating.

But the sound is welcome nevertheless. It nearly always the first summer migrant to arrive and announce itself. Early on Tuesday morning it trumpeted its arrival in Brampton. After wiling away the winter somewhere along the Mediterranean coats, perhaps in North Africa, it arrives after surfing the spring northwards. It can be heard throughout the spring, but its call is most insistent before the leaves arrive – over the next fortnight or so it will be repeating itself all over the village.