Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Sing Off....

A little bit of a rant to begin with....

I very much dislike a popular light entertainment show that airs on a commercial TV channel from the start of the autumn right up until Christmas.

A group of dazed, confused, desperate and often deluded wannabe stars are paraded for ridicule by self appointed industry experts who are really just money farmers. Once this modern day Victorian freakshow has concluded, a dull and tawdry karaoke contest ensues where hopes and dreams are raised and crushed by the money farmers. At the end of each week there is a "sing off" to decide which person is sent back to obscurity.

Why is this relevant to birdwatching on the Dee? A good question.

The answer starts on a leisurely stroll to work last week. It is at a relaxed pace as I have left extra early to enjoy a spot of birding on the way in. As I wander along the hedgerows of the Wirral Way I'm not seeing much but there is a most excellent soundtrack.

A fixture in this audio treat is the call of a one of 8 Chiffchaffs that I pass on my 2.5 mile trek. Numbers have swelled considerably over the last few days and males are working hard to establish a territory.

Robins are common too, lending a more melodic song to the show. Dunnocks chip in with melodious bursts from the tops of Hawthorns. Loudest are the Chaffinches. Listening closely I feel their song resembles someone pushing a piano down a flight of stairs. It starts quite slowly and high pitched then quickens to a lower sounding creshendo. Magic.

There are a few unusual bits and bobs around too. I can hear Redpolls buzzing overhead, I get brief views but nothing special. I get a better view of a passing male Brambling. There has been a small but appreciable passage of finches over the last few days and this Brambling is back off to Scandinavia to breed. His summer colours starting to develop. He lends his 'szweeep' call to the musical feast.

Siskins can be tricky on the Patch, I only really tend to see a handful at passage times. I notice one on a feeder in a back garden adjacent to the Wirral Way. I reel off a few shots. I try and be subtle, I don't want the home owners to think I'm spying on them! There are a couple now, chattering away on the peanuts.

Great Tits are calling now. 'teacher-teacher'-ing from any vantage point. I love this time of year, the birds are so fresh in their new summer breeding plumage. Even the common resident birds take on a special vibrancy.

From deep in the hedge a Blackcap starts off a zany all over the place warble. I don't get to see him but I can still hear him 100m further down the path on my walk to work. Stunning song. You catch the drift of this post? There is a rather special musical show on the Wirral Way and not a sponsor, start guest, cheesey duet or money farmer in sight!

The climax to this walk and story is about to occur. I have heard 2 male Song Thrushes since I left West Kirby. One singing from a tall sycamaore by Kirby Park Mansions (sounds grand, it's a block of flats really!) and the other in a hawthorn close to Simon's Bridge. They have a fantastic song. it's all 'tuu-tuu, weeep,weeep', zeeew, wheeooo' mixing up phrases, repeating others. I never tire of hearing it.

One starts off in the pine by the entrance to Dawpool nature reserve. I stop to find him in the binoculars. Beak open wide, chest puffed out, earnest calls echoing out over the caravan park opposite the reserve.

Suddenly a second bird flies in and starts to call from a maple on the Wirral Way not 30m from the first.

Pine bird isn't impressed by this and swoops over to the new pretender. I think there is going to be a bit of fisticuffs, not quite pistols at dawn but it's a big deal to these two thrushes.

However there is no fight. Pine bird instead throws open his bill and sings at the top of his voice. Pretender responds with shrill calls of his own.

It's the sing off!

The spectacle continues for a few minutes. This is obviously so important to each bird. This is not an idle dream, this is all about attracting a mate to breed. Passing on his genetic code is the prize for the victor in this contest and both seem determined to take this territory. It's great to be able to witness this, and honestly readers it was a situation full of drama!
Something has to give, there can be one winner only. The prize goes to our origional Pine bird. Pretender decides that he'll try somewhere else and zips off down the track in front of me, and that is where I must go too.

I hope Pretender finds his spot. As for the Pine bird, I slope off workwards and he resumes his position on the pine for another rendition of his winning tune.

He sings away and I listen on as I walk....

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