Thursday, 25 April 2013

Some Thoughts on the Nature of Bird-song


"High in the wide sky over the rush studded peat & wind rippled ditches of the wide wild brooks, the liquid song of skylark flows"
 Bird song is one of my precious pleasures of life, from the chirruping of house sparrows beyond my bedroom window when I wake in the morning, to the liquid sunshine notes of the soaring skylark, a tiny speck high in the cloudless summer sky. The beautiful heart lifting blackbirds song from the rooftop at dusk and the whistling of the robin in winter snow.

Poets and writers have, throughout history, always been moved by bird song; often mentioning how it seems to connect with the very inner feelings and soul of the listener, lifting the spirits and curing a heavy heart. Some have empathised with imagined emotions of lost and lonely or triumphant and love-struck birds,  whilst others marvel at the complex musicality of the songs themselves.

It seems that bird song is so much more than the simply scientific and biological process of making noise, it is an integral part of place and time, memory and emotion.

Maybe we feel such a connection with birds because, unlike the vast majority of mammals and other creatures, birds more often express themselves not just by smell and complex behaviours, but largely by calls and song, like us humans speak and sing (and indeed write!) and their voice is very much part of their identity.

What ever the reason, whenever the blackbird's flute-like notes drift down to my evening-scented garden, or hedgerows explode with sudden trills from a wren, when I stand in shady scrub and listen to the nightingale or bask on sun-drenched downs soaked in skylark song, for that moment, time pauses. The world is perfect, and life is good.

Friday, 5 April 2013

A Successful First Week

I have some good news to share! Many regular readers may be aware that I have been volunteering and studying conservation for a few years and have spent the last two years since leaving college looking for full time work. I am pleased to announce that this week, I started work in a new job! I am working with the RSPB as Visitor Services Trainee based at Pulborough Brooks, a reserve in West Sussex! If any of you are at the reserve any time over the next 18 months, do say Hello! 
Yesterday I joined a guided walk, the weekly "Wildlife Walk-about" lead by very able volunteers John and Mike. Despite the freezing temperatures and biting wind, we still managed an enjoyable and successful birdwatch. A flock of Linnetswas very mobile in the field beyond the Visitor Centre. From West Mead hide we enjoyed good views of TealWigeonShovelerShelduck and Lapwing. Slightly more unusual species were Little Ringed PloverDunlin and a pair of Peregrine Falcons. At Winpenny Hide we were treated to very close views of Snipe, feeding in the grass and waters edge close to the hide. The rest of the trail yielded the unmissable RobinWren and selection oftits along with a beautiful male Bullfinch, and a Green Woodpecker, a selection of corvids, StarlingFieldfare and RedwingGreenfinch and Goldfinch were heard singing. Later in the afternoon, the area outside the Visitor Centre window was alive with birds, hungry for the handfuls of seed and mealworms we had scattered on the grass. House SparrowDunnockRookMallardJackdawMoorhenSong ThrushBlue TitRobinand Blackbird all put in an appearance. Common birds, but a joy to watch so close and appreciate their often overlooked qualities. The resident Water Rail popped in and out several times, and at one occasion, late in the day I also saw it fly across the length of the pond. Perhaps practising to head off to summer breeding grounds? A Sparrowhawk shot through at high speed, hugging the face of the building wall, and a Kestrel was also seen over the field. On a non-bird subject, other sightings of interest included a rather cute Bank Vole feeding in the edge of the brambles outside the window, a Fox that ran swiftly across the field to the delight of one young visitor, and amazingly, in broad daylight at 8.50am, a Badger was seen by some of my colleagues, who unlike myself, happened to be looking in the right direction!
Today, the Wardens move the herd of Highland Cattle that are used on the reserve for grazing the flood meadows and heathland in summer, into a field infront to the visitor centre, providing great views for visitors when the cattle came to drink from the edge of the pond. I couldn't resist a few photos, they looked so stunning, peering between their sweeping horns, with the wind blowing their long coats.