As the temperature gauge falls, the soundscape changes. The song of the Robin drifts through the Autumn window and he harsh notes of the territorial Wrens announce their presence. Overhead the House Martins have long gone. They have been replaced by the dramatic sight of wild geese – during Sunday morning I spoke to people in Brampton and in Aylsham who relished the passage of Pink Footed Geese on their way to who knows where. Their musical calls drift down and become the wild sound of October. From the gloom of the ever-shortening evenings another sound has returned – the night flight contact calls of the Golden Plover. Northern visitors have filled the gap vacated by summer migrants.

Dawn on a rainy Saturday

February 12, 2011

In the subdued pre-dawn light, the variety of bird song is gradually increasing. The Robins, now well established, defend their bubbles of territory.  In the rain a Song Thrush adds to the mix, perhaps for the first time this year, but then stops.

The Blackbirds seem even less sure of themselves. Contact and alarm calls are the norm, as males seek to carve out an area of garden as their own. Any song, if it ever gets going, is fleeting and unsure. In the undergrowth the Dunnocks shout briefly and move on; their song does not really develop any further and reminds me of the sounds from a toddler’s game of hide and seek.

One notable addition is the song of the Great Tit, only really two notes, but strident, clear and as much a sign of spring as a Song Thrush. It is of limited musical quality and is known to us as “the squeaky wheel-barrow bird”, which just about sums it up.

Robin count

January 26, 2011

At daybreak this morning the weather was dull and a shower of cold rain made it feel damper than ever.

Whilst taking the dogs for their morning stroll I counted, in a totally unscientific way, the number of singing Robins within the southern part of the village. This part of the village extends to roughly fifteen houses. I reached a total of seven singing Robin’s within the 75 yard stretch from home to the railway line. This may not on the face of it seem a remarkable number, but no other species sang in these unsuitable weather conditions.

As I walked further on the railway line I only added two more to my tally in a half mile. I have no clearer evidence for the benefit of gardens in rural areas. More fences, hedges and boundaries means more Robins; it is unscientifically proven…

Return of birdsong

January 15, 2011

If it were possible to pinpoint the time and date that the birds start singing again, then I would say it was last Thursday morning (13th). On looking into the sodden garden before dawn I heard a Robin in full song and again when I parked my car in the centre of Norwich.

I suspect that in reality, bird song does not suddenly start but that after a period of rehearsal or sub-song, it gradually drifts into the real thing. Robins are notoriously territorial and it should come as no surprise that these street fighters are the first to shout.

There is a lifting of spirits which happens when hearing early Spring birdsong that very few other events can match. Music can create a similar feeling but I think it is the spontaneity of bird song which marks it out – bird song at this time of year creates such a contrast with the sheer dull dampness of January.

A couple of Sundays ago a similar thought occurred to me as two large skeins of Pink Footed Geese treated us to a mid-morning fly past. I looked up from my desk and threw open the roof-light to hear their wild hound like calls.