The nature of things
HEARING recently a lovely melodic trilling, which sounded more than anything else like a woodlark, I was reminded that these rare birds are now among the fortunate species enjoying something of a revival, perhaps owing to careful management of their favourite haunts. I was also reminded of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s delightful poem, which surely sums up, better than anyone else has done, the singular song, character and habitat of these diminutive birds: Teevo cheevo cheevio chee:
O where, what can there thaat again!be? Weedio-weedio: So tiny a trickle of song-strain; And all around not to be found For brier, bough, furrow, or green ground Before or behind or far or at hand Either left either right Anywhere in the sunlight Well, after all! Ah but hark—
I am the little woodlark. Like so many charming songsters, woodlarks are inconspicuously feathered, mostly a lovely mix of dark and warm browns above and creamywhite on the undercarriage, with thin, dark streaks around the throat area. Without the song for identification, it could be confused with the skylark, or even a pipit, as the lark’s crest isn’t often raised. Woodlarks do, however, have short, stumpy tails and broad wings and their white eye stripes run right round the head to the nape of the neck.
A lover of heathland, where its ground-nesting habit is precarious, Lullula arborea is chiefly a bird of southern counties, from Cornwall to Sussex and East Anglia. KBH
Illustration by Bill Donohoe