3 p.m., 38ºF, 4ºC: This old ash tree grows by a gravelly section of Coxley Beck. It would be more usual to find a willow or an alder growing with its roots in the water but the stream may have changed course since this ash sprouted from an ash key, probably getting on for a hundred years ago.
A blackbird forages under hollies on the bank behind me; a wren investigates the undergrowth alongside the path; long-tailed tits and blue tits check out the tree canopy; and wood pigeons coo monotonously in the tree tops.
It’s a good time of year to start trying to learn bird songs and one that I always struggle with is the dunnock. It doesn’t belt out its song like the wren and it’s not as clear and wistful as the robin; it just hurries through a short jingle. I try to remember the song by sketching it as a series of notes.
‘a not unmusical hurried jingle of notes, shorter in duration and less powerful than the Wren’s.’
Alan J Richards, British Birds, A Field Guide
In the Complete Birds of Britain and Europe, Rob Hume describes the song as ‘quick, slightly flat, high-pitched, fast warble with little contrast or variation in pitch.’ That verdict sounds like a lukewarm put-down from one of the judges on a television talent contest.
Link: Sketch Bird Songs, a field session with John Muir Laws in the Sierra Nevadas