Bird Life

PETER COWDREY’S SECOND BIRD BLOG 2019

To find out more about Peter Cowdrey: Go to: www.planetbirdsong.org
twitter: @pcowdrey
instagram: cowdrey.peter

I’m a composer, pianist and ornithologist and I’ve been visiting Elshieshields regularly for 15 years or so, in which time I have followed comings and goings of birds with interest. Ann Shukman has asked me to blog about birds on each of my visits, so here goes.

The wonderful cacophony of birdsong in spring and early summer has died down; replaced by the calls of house martins as they search for insects for their young. There are quite a few active nests around the tower, and they are onto their second brood, so often there are fifteen or so birds in the air at any one time. Swallows on the other hand are down to one pair this year, the lowest since I started coming here.

Other sounds include many young wrens learning to sing. Like human song, birds learn as much by imitation and practice as by their innate urge to sing; there must be dozens of young wrens practising in Elshieshields’ twenty acres at the moment. Young goldfinches and siskins are begging for food, and the frequent contact calls of adults occasionally burst into snatches of song as they fly around.

A walk around the grounds reveals a myriad of young birds; family groups of young spotted flycatchers and willow warblers learning to catch insects together (the dappled young flycatchers really justify the name spotted, unlike their parents). Blackcaps and garden warblers call loudly to warn their young of my approach, distract me, or both. Juvenile song thrushes and blackbirds rustle leaf litter in search of spiders and worms.

Young male wood pigeons start up a chorus, each one inflecting the song slightly differently as they strive to modulate the crucial second note of the song as richly as possible – next year females will be judging the fitness and suitability of the males on the evidence of that one note, so a remarkable proportion of their energy is expended on practice.

The strident calls of starlings and great spotted woodpeckers are occasionally heard from the old horse chestnut trees, and the shrill sibilant call of a treecreeper reveals the bird spiralling up the trunk of an ash only a few yards away.

To find out more about Peter Cowdrey: Go to: www.planetbirdsong.org
twitter: @pcowdrey
instagram: cowdrey.peter

P.S. from Ann. A tragedy befell our local heronry earlier this year: for many years the herons had nested in a stand of larch trees near Cumrue crossroads. Permission was given for the stand to be felled, but not before July. Unfortunately the loggers moved in while the birds were still nesting. The trees have now gone, and the birds too