Friday, 10 May 2013

Bird Song Skills Improvement Group Meeting at Heaven’s Gate, near Longleat: Tuesday 7 May 2013

Eight members and a guest gathered at Nockatt’s Carpark opposite the arboretum, where the rhododendrons were in full bloom. A Song Thrush was singing loudly somewhere close by but out of sight, it’s three or four note repetitive and quite strident phrases, somewhat dominating the more muted and mellow warbling notes of the Blackbird. Dunnocks, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Robin and Blackcap were all singing among the bushes and trees as we approached a wider grassy area where there were two tall conifers either side of the path. Flight calls of Siskin could be heard overhead. Sandra pointed out a small bird, hopping about around and under the
bushes which was identified as a Whitethroat and seemed too busy feeding to make any sound.

As we stood quietly listening and I was able to pick out a rapidly repeated series of very high-pitched single notes of the Firecrest, our target species.  We saw the bird fly between the two tress, singing deep in the leaves and sometimes feeding and singing on the ends of branches but the bird was very active and hard to follow. 

We moved on to the gate that takes you out of the more formal planted area to the ridge of open ground and tall beech trees, overlooking Longleat House. Walking through the tall conifers, we heard Chaffinch and a Coal Tit; the Coal Tit has a thin piping high-pitched song of two repeated notes, the rhythm like the “teacher teacher” of the Great Tit. We admired the view and looked down on the lake below where we could see Mute Swans, Grey Heron and a Great Crested Grebe. A Raven “cronked” behind us and we had a brief view of the bird. 

Back through the gate and on the edge of the woodland a Bullfinch called persistently; a rather mournful, soft single note, occasionally giving it’s squeaky short warbling song. The male kindly flew into view and we saw it clearly, his bright red underside almost glowing against the backdrop of the blue sky.

We encountered the Firecrest again where seen previously, before taking a short walk on the other side of the road behind the car park. In an area of short birch trees, we hear Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Garden Warbler. The latter two species can be tricky to distinguish, particularly when singing simultaneously very close to each other.

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