Poetry Month, April 2018: Song Thrush: Musical Magic, a Poem; Description and Facts about Thrushes
The Day of the Song Thrush
Monday 16th April 2018; Spring deigned to arrive, albeit tentatively, fighting a few showers. I decided to tackle some long-overdue gardening. As I emerged from the back door, a joyous sound met me, piercing the air, overriding all background noises.
I searched the willow trees above me, following the varied song of chatter, whistle, melody, scolding, soft warbling and muttering. After a while I found the creator of these wondrous notes; in the branches, against a grey sky, was a bird which looked like a thrush.
Should I go to fetch the binoculars or just stand and enjoy before the song-bearer flew? Entranced, I stayed a while longer, then took a risk and ran to grab them, focussed in on the bird and found that it was indeed a thrush. I knew what a thrush looked like but had never knowingly seen a song thrush before; I thought this must be one as it sang its little heart out like no other bird I’d ever heard.
I took another risk, rushed indoors once more to get my camera and pray that a photo shot would be mine.
I could hear the song indoors, such was its volume, so followed it once more and my accommodating feathered friend had moved to a more suitable perch, standing clear against the sky.
He (or she?) sang all morning, for the delight of anyone who wished to listen. He took up his refrain once more later in the day. The evening vibrated to his melody, his poem, his own song. I couldn’t stop smiling.
As I opened the door, it flooded my senses,
piercing the sunlit garden, a melody of songs;
piping high and long, reaching for a response,
whistling refrains to a mate, hardly waiting for the echo,
chirruping fancies with sheer joy, alive
now that Spring had finally arrived.
Standing entranced, I searched the foliage,
no idea of what I’d find, hearing this never before;
a softer, low warble, reflecting quieter thoughts,
regrouping vocal chords, ready to belt forth over and over
a trilled crescendo to claim his presence, his life,
a celebration, end to winter strife.
Chirp, cheep, peep, chirrup, varying his pace,
then long shrill notes piping to the sea shore,
swaying to twitters, not a care for all else
save the sun’s rays, the clear air and Spring’s advance
calling to instinct’s urge to shout as a town crier
claiming territory, his heart a-fire.
I let it move my heart, body and soul,
accepted his example; living, working hard,
while celebrating nature’s gift, enveloping its presence.
I captured him, only on camera, careful to stay quiet,
avoiding any sudden moves, fearing his swift flight,
to keep for ever his song in sight.
More about the Song Thrush
'Its original scientific name is ‘Turdus philomelos’. The generic name, ‘Turdus’ is the Latin for ‘thrush’ and the ‘philomelos’ refers to a character in Greek, Philomela, who had her tongue cut out, but was changed into a singing bird. Her name is derived from the Ancient Greek ‘philo’ (loving) and ‘melos’ (song).
A familiar and popular garden songbird whose numbers have declined markedly on farmland and in towns and cities. It's smaller and browner than a mistle thrush with smaller spotting. Its habit of repeating song phrases distinguish it from singing blackbirds. It likes to eat snails which it breaks into by smashing them against a stone with a flick of the head.'
Turdus merula (Blackbird)
'The males live up to their name but, confusingly, females are brown often with spots and streaks on their breasts. The bright orange-yellow beak and eye-ring make adult male blackbirds one of the most striking garden birds. One of the most common UK birds, its mellow song is also a favourite. The cheeky blackbird is my favourite; a regular visitor and quite tame when we’re sitting out in the garden. His song, too, is unmistakable.'
Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus)
'Slightly smaller and slimmer than a blackbird - male ring ouzels are particularly distinctive with their black plumage with a pale wing panel and striking white breast band. The ring ouzel is primarily a bird of the uplands, where it breeds mainly in steep sided-valleys, crags and gullies, from near sea level in the far north of Scotland up to 1,200m in the Cairngorms.
Breeding begins in mid-April and continues through to mid-July, with two broods common, and nests are located on or close to the ground in vegetation (typically in heather), in a crevice, or rarely in a tree. The young are fed a diet consisting mainly of earthworms and beetles.'
Turdus viscivorus (Mistle Thrush)
'The Mistle thrush is is a pale, black-spotted thrush - large, aggressive and powerful. It stands boldly upright and bounds across the ground. In flight, it has long wings and its tail has whitish edges. It is most likely to be noticed perched high at the top of a tree, singing its fluty song or giving its rattling call in flight.'
Turdus pilaris (Fieldfare)
'Fieldfares are large, colourful thrushes, much like a mistle thrush in general size, shape and behaviour. They stand very upright and move forward with purposeful hops. They are very social birds, spending the winter in flocks of anything from a dozen or two to several hundred strong. These straggling, chuckling flocks which roam the UK's countryside are a delightful and attractive part of the winter scene.'
Redwing (Turdus iliacus)
'The redwing is most commonly encountered as a winter bird and is the UK's smallest true thrush. Its creamy strip above the eye and orange-red flank patches make it distinctive.
They roam across the UK's countryside, feeding in fields and hedgerows, rarely visiting gardens, except in the coldest weather when snow covers the fields. Only a few pairs nest in the UK. It is listed as a Schedule 1 species of The Wildlife and Countryside Act.'
Definition of 'song'
- short poem or other set of words set to music or meant to be sung
- archaic: poetry
- the musical phrases uttered by some birds...., forming a recognisable and repeated sequence, used chiefly for territorial defence or for attracting mates
Most of us enjoy singing, the talented ones amongst us have wonderful voices and can delight others with their choral abilities. Singing is used to express many emotions, for entertainment, to lull a child to sleep, to revel in purely for its own effect. Singing and music can make us feel happier, be it our own singing or someone else’s. Our own singing is known to improve our health and feeling of wellbeing.
So let’s get out there, fill our lungs and sing with volume and confidence. Follow the example of our song thrush and let yourself go!
Find out more and see the video of the song thrush singing at:
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Ann Carr