Sunday, 13 March 2011

Daffs & chaffs...

We seem to have reached the tipping point where the momentum of spring has pulled free of the stasis of winter. The snowdrops are now largely done, and daffodils are bursting forth by the day. The soundtrack to this phase is the loud and persistent singing of the chaffinch advertising his wares. Here's a recording I made in our garden this weekend:

He will sit at the top of a tree and deliver this song so tirelessly, that it was (according to 'Birds Britannia') a Victorian pastime to catch and compete chaffinches against each other as singers, betting on the outcome, such that good singers were highly prized assets.

The song is a difficult one to describe musically, but it has three distinct phases when delivered complete; an opening phrase of accelerating single notes, before a longer slurred note, and finally a rising, almost interrogative sign-off. Sometimes the latter two phrases are incomplete or absent but the opening is umistakeable. It is not a beautiful song, but as one of the first songs I learnt, with its place in the year of birdsong, it is one of my favourites.

We are honoured to have our own alarm chaffinch who wakes us in the morning by tapping on our window and delivering a couple of loud 'spinks', and the occasional burst of his song.

Another milestone of spring is the first chiff-chaff, and we heard one yesterday as we worked in the garden, delighted that this migrant has returned to our shores.

1 comment:

  1. Musing further on this on my cycle to work, the chaffinch song is very like a bugle call in structure, and with the emerging daffodil trumpets, it is as though they have combined to make a fanfare for spring.

    Our cycle surrounded by the wide East Anglian arable fields is accompanied by the lyrical trilling of skylarks, and I heard what sounded like a yellowhammer this morning, but it seems very early...