Wildlife Column with Prof Ian Rotherham

A few weeks back, a bird began singing near my garden. It was loud and persistent with the tones of a blackbird but without the virtuosity; just two or three notes repeated endlessly.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 10:35 am
Updated Friday, 24th January 2020, 3:31 pm
Treetop mistle thrush by Ian Rotherham

However, what it lacked in subtlety it made up in stamina. From dawn for about three hours every day, then more sporadically throughout the daylight hours, until dusk when again it was almost non-stop the bird is singing.

Nevertheless, despite the bird’s song ringing out across the neighbourhood, the source was almost invisible.

The bird perched right at the top of a very tall sycamore tree and silhouetted against the bright sky behind it.

Eventually I could make out the songster’s favourite perch in the uppermost branches and after a while was able to follow its movements behind the tree-trunk and across a fork in the branch.

Once, with help of bright sunlight, it showed itself more clearly with a spectacled breast and grey head, neck and back.

It was a ‘storm-cock’ or mistle thrush. Eventually, I even managed to get some photographs of it, though it was hard to focus on the bird through a thicket of small branches.

I assume that this is the male bird proclaiming his territory and that there is a female somewhere nearby with a well-concealed nest.

Mistle thrushes generally build their nest in the fork of a tree-trunk, and so should be reasonably easy to see.

Whilst scanning the upper branches of the trees opposite our house and of the oak tree in the garden I also saw a host of other birds.

Another bird singing loudly and repeatedly was a nuthatch, and this was joined by the ‘chip-chip-chip’ call of a territorial great spotted woodpecker.

There was also a treecreeper running up a tree-trunk and with typical mouse-like appearance; not a bird I often see here but then they are easy to miss.

Scattered across a number of tall trees there are woodpigeons, collared doves, magpies, jackdaws, and carrion crows.

Indeed, once you begin to scan the highest branches then it really is surprising what you see.