Even Sparrows... Bird watchers


Posted: 15.05.23 in Articles category

May is the month for hearing birds sing in Britain. The volume and variety of birdsong is at its greatest at the peak time for breeding when resident birds and summer migrants alike are busy nesting. Across a variety of habitats (whether it be garden, woodland, heath, farmland or marsh) male birds are singing to attract females and to warn off other males. While I am writing this article on an evening in the middle of May, I am listening to a Robin and a distant Blackbird. Both songs are lovely, but the latter for me has the edge with his virtuoso performance. In his wonderful book, ‘birdwatching with your eyes closed’, Simon Barnes claims the Blackbird’s song is the most pleasing that you can listen to in Britain, and I think he’s probably right. However, that bird has plenty of contenders as you can readily discover at this time of year.

Our medium sized rural garden has a reasonably typical mix of birds breeding within its confines or close by. I can readily hear from our house more than a dozen species of bird singing including Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Song Thrush and Wren. In recent years we have been lucky also to have the Blackcap breeding in the garden and I look forward to his arrival in April with great anticipation. He has been called the ’northern nightingale’ and is many people’s favourite songbird, again according to Simon Barnes. Let me quote what Barnes says about his song:

It's a wonderfully fruity and fluty song at its peak: a song with a real richness about it. It seems that the bird is relishing each note. Even when the song is rapid, it seems to make a special effort to make each note exactly right. It’s perhaps the most melodic garden singer apart from the blackbird, which is much slower and laid-back, and less rich and intense in individual notes.

I love listening to garden birds in May. Yet my audio highlight this month came unexpectedly on a coastal marsh ten miles from home. I always enjoy hearing the rapid seven-note piping call of the Whimbrel, but on a wader watch at Druridge Pool last week I heard several calling almost constantly for ten minutes late afternoon. What a delightful sound to my ears!

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