During the fairer lock-down weather that we’ve had, something I have found the time to learn about is bird song. Although I spend a lot of time outdoors, I’ve never really found the time to learn individual bird song; perhaps because of the number of different calls, sometimes even from the same species, have left me baffled on where to start. Perhaps I tend towards visual stimulus and haven’t tapped into another way of learning. Either way, I’m finding my developing knowledge really rewarding and I feel it adds a new depth, or dimension to my nature connection.
It has proved quite a rewarding activity to do in the garden where my children are playing but don’t require me to be engaged, yet still require my presence! So, I have used this time to listen and notice. I then realise that of course, there are bird calls I instantly recognise: the blackbird with its melodic song; starling with its high pitched chatter and clicks; the wren, who I imagine singing its heart out (and for a tiny bird, so loudly), and the musical chatter of jackdaws.
I’ve learned these by listening and watching. I see the robin, sitting on the telegraph wire, singing its melodic call. I pick a call I can hear in the garden and then identify it in the woods. It’s easier when you can see a bird like a Jackdaw on your rooftop to match up the sound and the to listen out for it in the woods. Others might be trickier to spot wherever you are but are always there, like the ‘tea-cher, tea-cher, tea-cher’ call of the Great Tit. Describing the bird song, putting it into words, can really help to remember it.
I’ve used a couple of apps to help me out with this. Despite them not being 100% accurate, I find them a useful starting point because I usually have my phone to hand and it is hard to remember what a bird sounded like when I get home to then look up on a website (https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-songs/what-bird-is-that/ is good):
UK Bird Sounds – this gives a list (with pictures) of common birds and you can click on to listen, to compare with what you have heard. The short-coming of this is that you might find yourself going through them all in order to find the sound you’ve heard. On the positive side, this will expose you to different calls and you may become more familiar.
Bird Song ID - This app listens and identifies bird song for you and indicates the confidence as %. Although the results of this can range widely in accuracy, like the previous app, I find it helps me to be a better listener because if the results are unexpected, it forces me to investigate – to check again, listen harder, remember key phrases or sounds to listen out for. It’s fun too – apparently, my family sound like Herring Gulls!
The birds I would start with are ones I could expect to hear quite readily in the woods or garden: