Tonight on Crimewatch, er no, I mean Spring watch, though there were moments when Crimewatch might have been a more appropriate title for what we were seeing, I was fascinated to see the recording of the bittern booming: I know I’ve seen it on Television before but somehow so far the experience in the wild has eluded me: ggod to have the reminder of what I should be listening for.
Bird sounds are absolutely fascinating. Again tonight we saw and heard the Greater Spotted Woodpecker making its drumming sound by beating its bill against the wood of the tree in which it was searching for wood boring grubs. The same word is used for the sound made by the Snipe which produces its drumming in a totally different manner by vibrating its outer tail feathers in part of its mating behaviour.
I’d heard of the dawn chorus before I heard the dawn chorus, which I have come to love, and also experienced the lesser talked about dusk chorus. A major element of bird song is the terretorial singing of the male bird proclaiming its rights over the area around its singing post. One my regular walking route in West Yorkshire I would hear a succession of blackbirds belting out their mellifluous tones from their rooftop vantage points . At start of day I became accustomed to the long trilling song of the Chaffinch interrupted by the dip which invariably marked the end of the trill. The blackcap too belts out his challenge to the world usually from an elevated position.
This afternoon in the garden I experienced a corvid chorus of Jays rasping and Magpies with their more drawn out though equally rough calls. The calls of the corvus genus are really useful in identification and it is good to hear them together or at least in succession,with the increasing depth and strength of call from Rook to Crow to Raven, the smaller jackdaws having a totally different shreik which is totally unmistakeable.
I have friends who hearing a couple of notes of song identify the singer instantly. I do not share that ability but am learning little by little to recognise birds by their songs. It takes time, and listening and watching to see what is singing…and the effort of trying is well worth it.
Perhaps my greatest thrill is having learned a call, to hear it, and then to locate and identify its origin. Kestrel, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Blue tits and long tails all have songs which sometimes I can pinpoint in this way. Sometimes my learning curve seems mercilessly slow.
Sometimes I get surprises. On holiday on the Fife Coast I expected to hear the sound of gulls…but my dawn chorus consisted of the Wood Pigeon energetically belting out its noise (which I think I can now distinguish from the similar but quieter collared dove) and the repeated deep repeated caw of the Crow.
Speaking of the gulls, we are all I would guess familiar with the screams of the birds we come across near the coast….but are we all familiar with the gentler murmouring sounds of gulls communicating more intimately in a manner somewhat akin to the gurglings of pigeons, or the peep peep peep of the young seagull which sounds in so many ways like the penetrating peep peep peep of the Chaffinch.