Bird’s song music to your ears
ONE of the great joys of walking in the countryside is catching a glimpse of a thrush – or even better hearing a song thrush belting out a song.
I was lucky enough to have a close-up performance from one of these beautiful birds just the other day.
It hopped on to a gatepost and sang at me as I wandered past with the dog. Even as I stood for a while to listen, it continued to ‘sew’, ‘tic’ and ‘tchew’ its repetitive aria. It was spellbinding.
The mistle thrush’s song from the top of a tree is described as ‘monotonous’ by many birders and poets, while the song thrush’s repetition of notes can sound like a flute coming from lower branches. I suppose it all depends on whether you have a classical ear, but I like the way they both add to the mix of a dawn chorus mash-up.
Our ancestors nicknamed the mistle thrush the stormcock because it is quite happy to sing in the rain.
So it just doesn’t care if you think its relatives sound nicer, it just wants to tell us how wonderful it is feeling.
Thrushes are fairly easy to spot. Related to – and about the same size as – blackbirds, they have distinctive spotty chests and dark backs and wings.
The mistle thrush is bigger, with more grey to its plumage and pale spots on its belly. These spots are more streaky on the song thrush, which actually look the more solid and robust of the two. Many of the mistle thrush’s wing feathers are edged with white, adding to that paler colouring of the whole bird.
The spots on their bellies look like upsidedown hearts becoming more like droplets on the song thrush.
You are more likely to see a song thrush in your garden and they are more common than mistle thrushes. The handy Lancashire Bird Atlas estimates 18,000 song thrushes in the region with 10,000 mistle thrushes. Song thrush numbers have decreased by 73 per cent in farmland and 49pc in the UK.
However there has been a resurgence in recent years – which is music to the ears.
Thrushes are good for gardeners by eating insects, snails and worms as well as berries – that is why we have grown them. Mistle thrushes are named after their love of mistletoe and they have been put forward as the ‘true bird of Christmas’ for this very reason.
Fortunately a tendency to keep song thrushes as pets is now against the law. People kept them in cages to listen to their wonderful songs.
How selfish and shameful to deprive others of this beautiful, natural music.