No this article is not about the choirs of the Wychwoods but the natural choristers of the animal world, birds, of which Darwin said, “on the whole birds appear to be the most aesthetic of animals….”. Aesthetically pleasing as they are to our ears, for the birds these songs, usually sung by the males, are an important form of communication for individual recognition, defending their territories and attracting a mate.
Any early morning walk in the woods, lanes, fields or gardens around us at this time of year will be accompanied by bird song, with migrant birds that wintered in warmer climes now accompanying those that have been with us all year so giving a rich array of songs.
Some will be heard in your own garden such as the Robin with its rather plaintive song of drawn out notes, or the well known ‘teacher-teacher” song of the Great Tit.
Walk along a hedgerow and you may hear a Whitethroat that sings from the top of a tree or other high point with a short rapid warble that sounds rather scratchy.
Or perhaps you will be greeted with the song of a Yellowhammer with the mnemonic ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’, popularized by Enid Blyton.
In open farmland the song to listen for is that of the Skylark, delivered in flight and which can be sung continuously for up to 15 minutes or more. It’s song beautifully described in the first few lines of the poem ‘The Lark Ascending’ by George Meredith:
He rises and begins to round
He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake
Woodlands however can be the best habitat for listening to the dawn chorus with calm, cool conditions of early morning, allowing the songs to travel further and heard more clearly. A visit to the BBOWT Foxholes nature reserve or perhaps the Wild Garden in Shipton is where the avian choir with a cornucopia of songs can be heard.
Here one of my favourite birds to listen for is the Blackcap with its rich fluty, varied, melodic song, but beware its similarity to that of the Garden Warbler. Using your binoculars to find these will soon help identify which it is.
You are also likely to hear the Chiffchaff with it’s onomatopoeic ‘chiff-chaff’ song, possibly a willow warbler’s sweet whistling of descending notes, and not forgetting the percussionist, the greater spotted woodpecker with its drumming.
These are just a few of the birds to be heard; that will hopefully inspire you this spring to get out and enjoy some of the true delights of nature here on our doorstep.
Thanks to Roger Wyatt for all photos
April – May 2022