Spring’s sopranos

Blackbird © Neil Aldridge

Spring is a time of change, and for our feathered friends thoughts turn from survival to more amorous pursuits. As birds across the UK search for a mate, the landscape fills with song, the chorus growing as summer visitors arrive from farther south.

Next time you’re out for a walk, listen for these skilful songsters and enjoy the sounds of spring.

Blackbird (photo above)

The melodious blackbird is a common sight across the UK and one of our most familiar thrushes. Their jet black plumage and striking orange bill makes the males of the species instantly recognisable. Blackbirds will sing near their breeding territories, and their rich, mellow song is arguably one of the most beautiful among our garden birds. Their complex melodies have short gaps between phrases, and will usually end with a harsh rattling sound.

Starling

© David Kilbey

Starling

The striking starling appears, at first glance, to be black all over. But when the sun catches it an iridescent plumage is revealed that shines purple, gold and green.  When trying to impress a potential mate, starlings work a wide variety of different sounds into their song. They use a distinctive combination of clicks, wheezes and rattles, as well as noises copied from other species - you may hear cat, frog and owl noises thrown into the mix! They have also picked up human sounds, including car alarms, chainsaws and mobile phones.

Male Chaffinch in pine

Male Chaffinch © Dave Foker

Chaffinch

At this time of year the younger male chaffinches begin to establish and defend their territory, often in woodlands and gardens. Males start their courtship in spring with a tuneful song and show off their bright plumage, while females judge from the side-lines. Their song can be recognised by a repetitive cheeping, followed by a quick succession of rapidly descending notes, and a two-tone whistle at the end.

Great Tit © A. Powling

Great Tit © A. Powling

Great tit

Great tits are easily identifiable by the black stripe that runs down their chests. The stripe is more prominent on males: the wider the stripe, the more attractive he is! Their simple, high-pitched song sounds a bit like a bicycle pump, and is usually heard in woodlands, parks and gardens. Great tits nest in holes in trees, but are just as happy in a bird box. 

Nature Notes

To help people get their daily dose of nature while restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19 are in place, we have created new ways for local people to connect with the natural world.

Staff from across Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust are contributing to a new video series called ‘bringing nature to you’, which provides a virtual window to the outdoors with highlights from our nature reserves and beyond.  You can find the latest videos on our YouTube channel: youtube.com/user/HIOWWT

Our new weekly e-newsletter will share wildlife-themed activities that recipients can do from home, as well as simple ways to help and experience local wildlife. You can sign up to the e-newsletter here: hiwwt.org.uk

Connecting with nature can reduce stress levels and improve our health, and we hope that the new video series and newsletter will help people to embrace nature and brighten these difficult days.

Nature at Home – make your own birdfeeder

Feeding the birds is a wonderful way to help local wildlife, and brings a new lease of life to your garden or balcony. If you’re looking for a fun activity to do with the kids, why not try making your own birdfeeder?

You will need: cooked rice, grated cheese, birdseed, breadcrumbs, chopped nuts, dried fruit and cooking fat for the food mix. For the container, you can use a pinecone or an empty yogurt pot. Making your feeder is simple – mix all your ingredients together in a bowl, and then pack it into your chosen receptacle.  If you chose a pine cone, mash the mixture into all the crevices; if you chose a yogurt pot, fill it up with your mixture and then turn it out like you would a cake or a jelly. All that’s left to do now is to place your feeder somewhere that you can watch the birds without disturbing them.