The Listening to Birds Blog

Song Thrush by Nigel Pye http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/njpphotography/

The sound of spring

First of all, a happy New Year to all readers. It should be a very busy 2008 on the Listening to Birds project.

We’re still enveloped in the depths of winter here in the northeast of Scotland but the days are beginning to draw out and the first signs, and sounds, of spring are in the air. Over Christmastime I was down in the rather mild English Midlands and the relatively warm weather was encouraging a few birds to sing. During the autumn and early winter the only birds I’d heard singing here in Aberdeen were robins and wrens but down south goldcrests, mistle thrushes and dunnocks were also tempted into song.

But it’s not just the sound of birds singing that marks the coming of spring. Once or twice, even in the grip of some fierce winter storms, I’ve heard the brief burst of an oystercatcher over town. We see them along the coast here all winter, but as spring gets closer they start prospecting nest sites further inland and can be heard overhead, often at night-time. And for some time now the herring gulls that nest on the rooves below my flat have been returning to their nest sites periodically and calling to one another with that familiar seaside cry. I look forward to being regularly awoken as the days lengthen. Here’s one I recorded last week, with the thrum of Aberdeen harbour in the background.

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Some birds just seem to sound summery whatever the season. Here’s a flock of goldfinches I recored twittering above the traffic in Torry in December.

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The lightness of their call somehow seems to evoke a feeling of sunny days and flower-filled meadows, even when the surroundings are anything but.

Hearing these sounds appear as the birds’ lives journey through their annual cycle is to me less about phenology, the scientific study of these first appearances, and more about the feeling those sounds give of life progressing, both for birds and for humans.

If you’d like to tell me about your own sounds of spring then you can post your experience through the contribute section of the website.

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