Returning songbirds

There’s a particular spot in my local meadow where there are some large clumps of brambles which are home to numerous species of bird including songthrush, blackbird, linnet and house sparrow. And in the summer chiffchaff, willow warbler, blackcap and common whitethroat are all there too. Chiffchaff have been here for a couple of months now, and willow warbler almost as long but I hadn’t yet seen a whitethroat, so I set off last Monday in the hope of seeing the first one of the year.

A cock robin singing to the ladies

There were many species of songbird in the meadow including the robin (Erithacus rubecula: Dansk: rødhals) and the house sparrow (Passer domesticus, Dansk: gråspurv) and the air was alive with the song of all these species.


House sparrow female

Robin and house sparrow are resident species in the meadow and I see them all year round there, but not the chiffchaff:

The chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita Dansk: gransanger), which is a warbler, and willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus, Dansk: løvsanger) can be very difficult to tell apart if only seen at a glance, but they can be distinguished by their song, of which more in the next post. This chiffchaff was one of a pair which were calling to each other and flitting around the bushes passing within a few feet of me on several occasions and seemingly unfazed by my presence.

Cock linnet

Resident in the UK is the linnet (Carduelis cannabina, Dansk: tornirisk), they disappear from the fields around Histon in the Autumn, presumably to congregate at a winter feeding ground, and they reappear in the Spring. And they have recently turned up in the meadow. Also resident, and present all year round, is the dunnock…


Dunnock, Prunella modularis, Dansk: jernspurv

… and the chaffinch:

Cock chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs, Dansk: bogfinke

There were no whitethroat back in the meadow last Monday but as you can see there were plenty of other birds. In the last week I’ve also seen kestrel, sparrowhawk and buzzard, blackcap, green woodpecker, jay and magpie.

I recce’d the meadow again this weekend and the whitethroat are now back from wintering in Africa. They are very distinctive and both sexes are easily identified by their strikingly white throat, and the males display by singing from the top of a bramble thicket or a sapling and flit 4-5m vertically into the air and then descend to land in the same spot. They’re lovely little birds, with a very distinctive song, and I’ll hopefully have some pictures to show you in the near future.

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22 responses to “Returning songbirds

  1. Spectacular, Finn! I love that shot of the cock robin. I’m going backwards here (you can tell I’ve stopped by to hang out of a while–finally). I probably should have gone back to where I last visited and moved forward in time. … Anyway, it’s lovely to see such beautiful images of birds I’ve never seen before. What a treat!

  2. I especially love your beautiful robin photo, Finn!

  3. Love that first picture. For some reason I really like pictures of animals with their mouths open — singing, eating, yawning.

  4. I feel my bursting with delight at these gorgeous birds you have managed to photograph!!! I have found birds my toughest subjects yet 😀 So, I doubly appreciate your in depth knowledge and your photography skills! Enjoying your blog immensely and learning so much here with my young son! Thank you so much! Sharon

    • Hello Sharon, I’m really pleased you like the birds and especially that your son enjoys it too. It’s so important that our youngsters learn to appreciate and value our world. Thankyou for your kind words 🙂

  5. Love your birds! It’s enought to make me want to dig out my binoculars, Roger Tory Peterson, and head to the coast!

    • Hello Marian, thanks for your comment, I’m glad you like the songbirds.

      If even one person feels inspired to dust off the bins and go birdwatching as a result my postings I consider my week to have been worthwhile 🙂

  6. I enjoy seeing your photos of the birds! That’s the first robin I’ve seen. we have the American Robin here which is so different.

    • I’m pleased you like the birds Terry, I’m blessed with good numbers of alot of species here so hopefully you won’t get bored with seeing the same ones too often ;-). Does your robin have the same significance as the European one? Ours is an iconinc bird that symbolises Christmas because of its red breast, which I believe is because 19th century postmen in England wore red waistcoats and the robin was said to resemble postie delivering Christmas cards and thus became inextricably linked to the festive season. And they are wonderfully photogenic.

      • Our robins are actually the largest member of the thrush family. They are very popular because they are a sure sign of spring to those of us in the northern states and they are numerous in urban settings as well as in the forests.

      • I looked up the American robin after your first comment and it is a handsome bird, it’s easy to see why the folk in the north are pleased to see it as a harbinger of fair weather.

  7. I wish I could walk your meadow with you one day. Another great set; your shots of the robin and the chaffinch are extraordinary.

    • If you’re ever in Cambridge let me know and I’ll be very happy to show it to you. It’s a tiny fragment of wild space, untouched by human activity except the dog walkers, and it’s crammed full of wildlife!

  8. Yes, that’s a beautifully expressive shot of the robin, Finn. And a pleasure to see the dunnock, which I always think of as discreet, almost furtive. I agree that there is nothing quite like a shimmering meadow, full of insect life and birdsong. Many thanks for this.

    • Hello Robert, I think the dunnock is a bit of a gem, they flit around in the undergrowth looking plain brown, but seen close up in the sunlight they have rather handsome plumage. And you’re absolutely right about the meadow, wonderful places 🙂

  9. Beautiful photos Finn, I’m looking forward to the whitethroat, and hopefully more of the pretty little chiffchaff. I feel as if I’m getting to know your meadow through your posts, it’s lovely.

    • Thanks Lorna, now they’re back it shouldn’t be long before I can get some whitethroat pictures, they’re fairly bold. The Meadow is indeed a lovely place, it’s not very big, maybe 150 x 200m, and there is an awful lot of wildlife crammed in there.

  10. These birds are so appealing, especially the robin singing! It’s nice to see them back…

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