Birdwatch: Birds are finding their voice again as spring approaches

The far-reaching song of the mistle thrush can bring a touch of cheer on the greyest of days.   Picture: RSPB
The far-reaching song of the mistle thrush can bring a touch of cheer on the greyest of days. Picture: RSPB
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As the days gradually lengthen and the weather stays relatively mild more birds are singing.

I heard my first mistle thrush on January 2 singing from the top of a tall building in Leeds but they are now much more widespread.

It is one of the most far carrying of any British bird song, a few wild fluting phrases but a cheery sound, especially on a grey winter day.

Mistle thrushes also have a harsh ‘football rattle’ call which they use with great effect to chase other birds away from the berry bushes that they regard as their winter territory.

Waxwing and fieldfare flocks are among the birds scared off in this way. Song thrushes have also been bursting into song again. Most fell silent at the end of last year’s nesting season although a few started singing again in November.

Now they are returning to their territories again and this week their lovely song, loud clear ringing notes often repeated three or four times, has been heard in many places across the region.

The first blackbirds are also singing, quietly at dawn and dusk at first but more boldly and for longer each day as the month progresses.

Hedge sparrows are also being heard, a rapid thin and tinkling warble while wrens are much more visible as their deliver their remarkably penetrating song, a fast high trilling sound lasting just five seconds and repeated four or five times a minute.

In woodlands great spotted woodpeckers are drumming again, and the loud ‘yaffling’ calls of green woodpeckers which they use instead of drumming to attract a mate are also ringing out.

It is also a good time to look out for the much more uncommon lesser spotted woodpecker in the still bare trees, perhaps tagging along with a tit flock. The loud whistles of calling nuthatches also seem to be everywhere.

Chiffchaffs that have spent the winter here are also being heard, especially on sunny mornings, although we will have to wait until the end of this month for the songs of those that have returned here for the summer.

Cetti’s warblers are also being heard in the reedbeds where they nest and birders are also listening out for the first booming bitterns of the year, a subdued sound at first but gathering in volume and carrying considerable distances.

Sightings across the region included a drake ring-necked duck on Lingham Lake, Nosterfield North Yorkshire and drake green-winged teal on Filey Dams.

Smews were at Blacktoft Sands, the Watton reserve, East Yorkshire and a drake and female at Fairburn Ings. Up to four long-tailed ducks were on Hornsea Mere, two in South Bay, Scarborough and others at Tophill Low, Sunk Island, and at the Calder Wetlands and St Aidan’s in West Yorkshire.

A firecrest has been seen along Back Lane at Wintersett reservoir. There are still large numbers of white-fronted geese across the region and tundra bean geese among flocks of greylag geese including nine at St Aidan’s.