22 March 2011

Who turned up the volume?

All new birdwatchers quickly discover that sound pretty much as important as sight in birding - you always hear plenty of species which you don't end up actually seeing, and even when you do see a bird, it was often the sound that helped alert you to them in the first place.

It takes a bit of practice to distinguish even the most common bird calls and songs, and sadly after many years I'm still struggling to be even averagely good at this (although it's a skill of which you don't need much to amaze non-birdwatchers, who nearly always seem to find it mind-boggling that anyone could tell a robin from a greenfinch by sound alone - and in case you're wondering, that particular task really is spectacularly easy).

So for most of us it's a case of practice makes perfect - and if you're going to practice, this is the time of year to get stuck in. Because, quite simply, it is around now that the bird volume gets cranked all the way up to 11.

Monday was a case in point. As I wandered along a stretch of Derby river and path not very far at all from the ring road, I was practically deafened - not by the passing traffic, but by the combined efforts of wrens, blackbirds, robins, a song thrush, goldfinches and greenfinches, all singing their hearts out (and there are some noisy buggers in that little list). Likewise, tonight in the garden was jolly pleasant, but you should have heard the noise from the house sparrows, collared doves and skylarks around me - I could barely hear the planes as they passed overhead! 

And tomorrow morning I will be woken, as every morning this week, by an enthusiastic blackbird or two at about 5am. Hmmm, a mixed blessing this birdsong.

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