Monday, June 04, 2007

The Winding-Down Bird

I'm pretty good at recognising most common birds, such as all the ones which are currently emptying our well-stocked bird table twice daily to feed their growing chicks.

Here are some we see in the garden: Sparrows (little flocks of them - they may be rare in other places but not in our garden, oh no) blue tit, great tit, long-tailed tit, robin, blackbird, mistle thrush, song thrush, magpie, starling, crow, jay - - and, more occasionally, blackcap, chaffinch, jackdaw (that's the bird pictured on your blog on June 2, Mr Silverback) wren, that big pink thing, what's it called? - oh yes, bullfinch, greenfinch, the occasional owl and once, only once, I saw a goldfinch in the garden. And I saw some siskins in the park, which is pretty near so nearly counts. And there may be one or two that I've forgotten.

I'm not so good on the birdsong though. Even when you know the sound, it's hard to write it down. Which bird can everyone recognise? Only a few, such as the cuckoo, I'd say - and I love to hear its call, even though its lifestyle makes it it a bit of a bastard, really.

I was extremely surprised when, a few years ago, Emily changed my whole world picture by saying that an owl doesn't go To-whit- to-woo: it is in fact two owls, one calling To-whit and the other replying To-woo. It's taken me a while to accept that, I can tell you, but I'm getting used to it now.

The easiest birdsong, apart from the obvious ones, to recognise, is a stonechat, which I saw near the beach once: it makes a noise like two stones being tapped together. Herring gulls aren't bad, either - they go Aaaaar - - then pause for a second - and then popopop.

But many of the sounds that birds make we just don't have words for. The mistle thrush makes a loud and vicious-sounding noise, and the tits make little, sharp noises, and the robin sounds like - well, a robin.

Who could forget the Trimphone Bird of the 1980s, which could do a perfect impersonation of a trilling Trimphone popular at the time? It was probably a starling: they are good mimics.

But in our garden at the moment we have a Winding-Down bird. It makes a noise like a traditional ambulance siren - Ee-aw-ee-aw - ee-aw. It starts off high up, all cheerful and positive, and ee-aws down the scale a bit until after a few goes it appears to run out of steam and stops rather suddenly.

So you get:
Ee -aw

I told you it was difficult to write down. And I have no idea what it is. We've all heard it. None of us has managed to see it. We're all clueless. Any ideas gratefully received.


Blogger John said...

The owl is a romantic bird who
Has only one role in life,
To wit to whoo.

ha ha he he and ho ho ho

3:17 pm  

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