Wildlife Column: Magnificent and splendid blackbird

The  Garden Blackbird
The Garden Blackbird

How often do you say or think, ‘Oh it’s just a blackbird?’ Yet pause a while and to look at the magnificent male in prime breeding plumage – they really are stunning.

Furthermore, in the next few weeks as the weather warms and days get longer, the male blackbirds will take up the challenge of the annual ‘dawn chorus’ when the male birds of various songbird species vie for territory and either advertise for or try to hold on to, a female mate. The best, most fluent and most accomplished singer of all – is of course the blackbird. It always strikes me as particularly fortunate that one of our most common songsters is indeed this species.

How would the dawn chorus sound without the loud, persistent, and wonderfully melodious tones of our premier songbird? Our own lives would be so much poorer as a consequence.

Yet we take all this for granted; rarely stepping back to truly appreciate and admire nature in the round. In the hurly burly whirlwind of modern life, contact with nature is all the more special and uplifting. Is it free as well? Of course it is ‘free’ for us to take-in and absorb the contact in our everyday lives, but in the wider context the answer is ‘no’. If we as a society, a community, don’t look after our wildspaces and the nature they contain (and that includes paying for their upkeep and resisting inappropriate developments), then nature loses out and the birdsong dwindles to nought. This rationale even extends to the infamous Sheffied street tree management (removal) by SCC and Amey. Maybe this springtime, take a walk down one of the streets now stripped of its big trees and you will notice far fewer birds singing. Of course, noticing something that isn’t there is often not so easy! Later in the spring and early summer, walk the same areas again and maybe contrast with a street still lined with big lime-trees. The latter will be loudly buzzing with honey-bees and other pollinating insects, whilst the former will be an ecological desert; one to think about.

Professor Ian D. Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues