Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The chiffchaff and other boring birds!

I have heard a chiffchaff in the garden for the first time in 19 years. No prizes for guessing how it got its name. It's completely onomatopoeic: all it says is 'chiff-chaff' over and over again. It certainly wouldn't be top of the garden birdsong charts.

The great tit has an equally boring song. My name for it is 'the creaky gate bird' because it sounds exactly like a gate with squeaky hinges swinging in the breeze.

My mother's least favourite bird, as far as voices are concerned, was the collared dove. She cursed the woman from three doors down who had a bird table and encouraged the doves, which then sat in the surrounding trees, making their three-note booming call.

Unlike Mum, I find their song quite interesting. In fact, there was one that I christened 'Bastard Bird' because it sounded as if it was shouting, "You bastard!" over and over again. And that's the thing about collared doves; they do go on... and on... and on. They must bore themselves to sleep!

From time to time, various bird organisations ask us to pick our favourite songbird. The nightingale, song thrush, blackbird and robin are often mentioned but I have never seen the wren featured on the lists. I don't know why, because it has an amazing song. Piping, piercing, melodic, and syncopated with a regular chirring sound. And then there is the sweet piping of the goldfinch, like someone plinking on a faery xylophone.

It's about time someone launched a competition to find Britain's Most Boring Bird! I'd vote for the chiffchaff. Sorry, mate!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

We have swifts!

The swifts are back. I noticed a group of five yesterday, wheeling and screaming over Marlborough Road in Hillingdon - always a good place to spot them.

I don't know why they like this particular area but my partner tells me that there used to be an old farm there, before they built the council houses, so swifts have probably been nesting there for centuries.What a shame that planners didn't realise this, and build swift nesting places into the roofs of the houses.

I have seen swifts flying into what must be a ventilation space in the loft of one of the houses. Who knows, perhaps a barn that was a good swift home used to stand on that very spot.