Migration – the lengths that some creatures go to.

I have become a huge fan of podcasts in the last few months, one of which I subscribe to being the BBC’s best of Natural History Radio. The last two weeks have been ‘World on the Move’, a series looking at the migration of species around the world.

Some of the highlights have included a visit to Gambia to look for the warblers that will be returning to the UK to breed in the Summer – it certainly puts a different slant on things to hear about ‘African’ rather than ‘British’ Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats. Apparently the Housemartins already appear to be on the move north. We are also asked to look out for Painted Lady butterflies and report in our first sightings of them. These amazing creatures migrate over from Africa – 1000 miles; there are networks of people looking for them all the way from Spain through Europe, they have even managed to reach Sweden in the past! Not bad for such a fragile-looking creature. However, one of the hardiest creatures is possibly the Alaskan Bar-Tailed Godwit. One of these was tagged and flew non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand, 11,700 kilometres in 8 days – not surprisingly she now holds the record for the longest non-stop flight. I think you have to agree that this is pretty amazing.

Should you want to find out more there is a lot of interesting information on the BBC website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/worldonthemove

What’s so musical about a song thrush?

Whenever anyone talks about song thrushes (particularly as it now seems as though they are yet another previously common bird that are apparently in decline) they always seem to wax lyrical about their song (I guess that explains the name; turdus musicus).

This has always been a bit of a mystery to me. When I grew up we used to have a large tree at the bottom of the garden on which a male blackbird used to perch and sing every evening. To me this always seemed more musical than the song thrush. It is certainly a more varied song than that of the song thrush which is a bit repetitive.

However, I am now changing my opinion. After starting my contribution to Nature’s Calendar late last year I have been listening out for song thrushes to see if they are singing all through the Winter or not. Yes, you’ve guessed it they are – there are two round here, one on the old railway track that I can hear through the double glazing and another closer to work, both of which have cheered otherwise dull, dark Winter days as I slogged to work through the rain.

I have never really thought twice about the thrush’s song until recently, in fact it is only in the last year that I realised how recognisable its depth makes it. I then started to wonder why it is so well loved as to even give rise to the latin name, after all robins are pretty musical, not to mention nightingales, but they are apparently not musicus enough. It was then that I found a quote in an old book that I have (British Birds and Their Haunts) that was published nearly 100 years ago that I think sums it up eloquently. ‘However near it may be, its song is never harsh, and heard at a distance its only defect is, that it is not nearer.’