Birdsong Bonanza

Posted on March 26, 2016 · Posted in News

The blackbird is always a relative latecomer to the winter songfest; this year we didn’t hear our resident male until 23rd February, and a cold easterly breeze soon silenced him again. But during our first spring at Bron y Llys we didn’t hear any blackbird song until May, though it was obvious that a pair held territory near the house. Just as I was beginning to think our male was the Marcel Marceau of the blackbird world, the sudden appearance of a second male prompted him to break his silence and proclaim his territorial rights. Since then – assuming it’s the same bird – his song has become richer each year. Whereas most bird species learn their songs during their first year, with no subsequent change, a blackbird’s song improves with age as he adds to his repertoire of phrases. Our bird can now put on a great performance, though it takes a mild day to melt his strange reserve.

The song thrush, on the other hand, will sing in the coldest weather, often starting in early winter, and the mistle thrush (pictured) frequently lives up to his old name of stormcock. Both of them, and the blackbird, prefer to sing from the tops of our tallest spruces, vantage points that provide a view of approaching danger as well as a good place from which to be heard. For my money the song thrush is the finest singer of the three; nothing beats his virtuoso performance for range, variety and sheer exuberance, and its exultant beauty is equally suited to the mood of dusk or early morning.

Robins, of course, have been singing since August with no winter break. Dunnock, wren and our three resident tit species (blue, great and coal tit) have been singing for some while, and last week I heard the high, whispery song of a goldcrest for the first time this spring. With chaffinches, goldfinches and siskins now adding their voices we have the full complement of regular resident singers. We look forward to spring migrants arriving to swell the chorus.