Countryside calling

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By Jamie Wyver

Even though you’re having to restrict your movements because of coronavirus, there are some sounds of the countryside you might be able to pick up from your window. Jamie Wyver listens in.

Watching flocks of thrushes moving through the hedgerows is one of the highlights of a country walk early in the year but you can also hear many birds on the wing. The smallest of these, the redwing, is one of the most common and although they are active in the day they tend to make their longer journeys during the night.

If you’re outdoors after dark you may hear their high pitched ‘seep-seep’ sounds as they fly overhead. These are ‘contact calls’: they’re making sure the other birds in their flock know where they are. They nest in Iceland or Scandinavia, raising their chicks before making the long journey south in autumn and will now be making their way back north. Escaping the north for our comparatively milder climes, they often join flocks of fieldfares, larger thrushes with smart blue-grey hoods and white rumps.

If you set a digital recorder outside at night, you’ll be amazed at the number of birds on the move in the darkness. In our Bedfordshire garden I’ve recorded 118 redwing calls in just a few hours. You can listen to some of the calls here:

 

There were probably many more in these flocks as I’d have just picked up the individuals calling during the few seconds they were directly above. I’ve also recorded blackbirds, song thrushes, fieldfares as well as a few surprises. Dunlin and golden plover are birds I would never have dreamed were flying over our house. But now I have evidence that they do just that!

With reduced traffic on the roads at the moment as people limit their journeys, birdsong will be even clearer – so stick your head out the window and see what you can hear!

A brown speckled bird sitting on branches with berries
Listen out for redwings this spring Jamie Wyver