Valentine’s Day stands out in my mind as a special day in 2018. It was the day that I was greeted by song as I left the house. Early that morning, before the sun had climbed above the horizon, I heard a number of repeated notes. They were in strings of three or four and immediately I felt an internal lift. A song thrush was atop a garden tree singing his heart out! Such music will now be sung from tall trees in gardens, parks, churchyards, and woodlands until summer.
Chorus at dawn
In the following week I have heard other birds join in the chorus. Wren, robin, chaffinch, blackbird, great tit, crow, and nuthatch have all stood out. They all sing a song that I recognise yet it can take a minute or two to put a face to the voice as it were. Robins can be heard singing year round but I haven’t heard the others call with such conviction since last July.
The songs travel through the air with familiar notes that lend to the identification of the species responsible for the natural music. However, no matter how many years I’ve heard some of these songsters for, it can take a moment to recognise the species in my mind. One trick I use to narrow down the type of bird is to place its location in terms of height from the ground. The following isn’t a hard and fast rule but it can definitely aid in narrowing down the field.
Wrens, while diminutive in size, have a loud voice. They typically sing from low down and often from within dense vegetation. Crowing with confidence from near the top of a tall tree is the bird of that very name, the crow. The large dark silhouette immediately confirms your suspicions as you look upwards. As on Valentine’s Day when I heard the song thrush singing, this bird proclaiming a territory is usually near the top of a prominent tree but just a branch or two down from the apex. Nuthatches sing what I recognise as a ‘fluting’ call and are usually heard, then seen, in the crown of a mature oak tree. Watch closely and the singing bird may lead you to the hole where it intends to locate its nest.
The birds pronounce the arrival of spring from the air. But what about spring in the water? This is where the frog chorus comes in. As daylight becomes stronger and days lengthen you may be fortunate to witness a gathering of frogs in your local pond. While spawning occurs en masse the activity can draw the attention of a much less vocal bird than those already mentioned, the grey heron.