Monday, 30 January 2012

The song's the thing

I've been busy recording, writing and singing my songs of late, whilst around me the world is starting once again to explode into the natural soundtrack of early spring. The cultural resonances of birdsong seem all about, from the BBC adaptation of Sebastian Faulks's 'Birdsong' (screaming swifts and melodious larks aplenty), to my ipod's random shuffle serving up Peggy Seeger's 'Little Birdie', Niamh Cavlan's 'The Birds' and Clarence Ashley's 'The Coo-coo bird' in quick succession. I'm sure this partly reflects my current reading - Simon Barnes's 'Birdwatching with your eyes closed' - which is focussing my mind on actively listening to birdsong.

It is the perfect time of year to tune into birdsong, partly because there are not that many birds singing yet, but also as dawn is still relatively late, meaning that what early chorus there is coincides with cycling to work. As spring progresses, the range of birds and song can be quite overwhelming, even if you do get up 'with the lark'. This weekend, I spent a very happy half hour recording some of the local birds, and was struck as ever by the amazing range of sounds produced, from the light, fluid phrases of the robin loudly proclaiming himself king of the castle atop a tree, to the bark of the male pheasant, and the startled rattle of the blackbird. Here you can hear two robins vying for territory in our garden, their singing as combative as any of their physical encounters:

Over the last week or so I have particularly noticed the growing prevalence of the Great Tit 'Tea-cher' call, as well as the wheeze of the Greenfinch, and this morning, the first partial chaffinch call - not yet the full fanfare but a definite warm-up for what is to come...


  1. Beautiful recording Ads. Q: Are the series of short barking noises the robin's at the end of the recording ? I certainly don't know what a greenfinch sounds like. Looking forward to listening together at half term as I find it difficult to separate one from the other and also to get away from other sounds and would welcome your bird call identification skills. The recording is so rich and full of different elements, perhaps easier to distinguish when not looking also as when outside, much like trying to undo a tricky knot by shutting your eyes to help 'see' , or maybe thats just me.

  2. Hi Dunc. Those are mostly blackbirds at the end - shouting 'cos I'm around but also part of the ongoing territoral squabble that is our back garden. It's a warzone out there. I know what you mean about unpicking the sounds. I am just trying to work through by picking out sounds that I do know and consolidating those, and then picking out unknown ones to learn one at a time. This is a useful book and podcast - see you next week!

  3. Adam, this is great; it's so tricky to identify which bird is calling - although I know the blackbird well as I hear that one all the time.