New voices join the choir

PUBLISHED: 12:24 27 April 2007 | UPDATED: 22:46 28 May 2010

As we approach the peak birdsong season, more and more new voices can be heard as migrant songsters touch down and make their claim to a territory. Many warblers may look similar in appearance, but their songs each have a special quality and it is well wo

As we approach the peak birdsong season, more and more new voices can be heard as migrant songsters touch down and make their claim to a territory.

Many warblers may look similar in appearance, but their songs each have a special quality and it is well worth getting to know them. Learning bird songs isn't easy, but learning even just a few is so rewarding - and useful when you are out and about.

Perhaps the strangest song of all belongs to the grasshopper warbler. Imagine the continuous sound of a fishing reel and you just about have a good idea of the song of this streaky songbird. In our region, it is most often found in those wet areas that remain, singing from brambles and hawthorns within reedbeds. It is also one of the most difficult of the warblers to see, so a good look is always a treat.

Wicken Fen, Woodwalton Fen and Chippenham Fen are traditional sites and hold good numbers of this secretive but charismatic bird. This is one bird that would have been very common pre-drainage of the Fens.

Another wetland warbler is the Cetti's warbler. This is a relatively recent colonist from the Mediterranean, but unlike most warblers, it is a year-round resident. In the last five years, it has recolonised the Fens after a bit of an absence but is now doing well.

The other two wetland warblers are much easier to find. Reed warblers sing their grumpy song from any significant stands of reeds and sedge warblers leap into the air from bushes to give their lively, scratchy song.

The cascading song of the willow warbler can be heard along hedgerows and in woods now. It really is the definitive sound of spring for me. The jaunty phrases of the chiffchaff can often be heard at the same time and the musical songs of the blackcap and garden warbler are now prominent.

Along hedgerows, whitethroats and lesser whitethroats perform. The former has a scratchy warble, but the latter has a ringing staccato rattle.

Of course, the best time to hear birdsong is early in the morning, so if you fancy getting to grips with some of our wonderful warblers in the next few weeks, make an early start.

We are lucky to have such a good variety of warblers and you shouldn't have to go too far from home to start to find at least a couple of species.

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