13 January 2020

Getting the car out of the garage shortly before dawn, I hear a bird-call I don’t recognise coming from our neighbour’s garden. It sounds like some sort of thrush: clear and mellow.

It’s not a song as such; just a couple of notes in rapid succession, a pause, then a couple more notes. Sometimes the pairs of notes go low-high (oo-ii!); sometimes they go high-low (chii-oo!). The call is surprisingly clear. Definitely not a blackbird. An unimaginative song thrush perhaps?

I need to get better at this. I’ve learnt to recognise more bird-calls in recent years, but what do you do when you hear one you don’t recognise? Seeing the bird would help, but it’s still too dim to make anything out. The call seems to be coming from the ridge of the neighbour’s roof. Perhaps that’s a clue: a bird that likes to perch high when calling.

How am I going to remember this so I can look it up later? Or should that be listen it up? Then I remember the voice memo app on my phone and record a good 20 seconds of calls.

I hurry back into the house to compare the call to the sounds of various thrushes on my Birds app…

Definitely a bit song-thrushy, but not varied enough. Not a mistle thrush either. Nor a redwing or fieldfare… Surely not a ring ouzel! Now wouldn’t that be something? You do occasionally get them round here, I’ve heard, although I’ve never seen one! Actually, it does sound quite a bit like a ring ouzel, if I’m ridiculously generous and optimistic! I should go out and listen some more, now I know what I’m listening for.

The bird is still calling, clear and loud, as regular as clockwork. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it sounds a bit like a faulty burglar alarm.

…A bit like the faulty burglar alarm my neighbour was complaining about the other week, in fact.

Richard Carter

Richard Carter is a writer and photo­grapher living in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. He is currently working on a book about looking at the world through Darwin’s eyes.Website · Newsletter · Mastodon · Facebook

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