For the first time in many years our garden has been visited by a song thrush, Turdus philomelos. Between 1970 and 1995 it is estimated that the population decreased by 50%, perhaps even as much as 70% vanished from farmland. The loss of hedgerows for nesting and changes to land use decreasing the number of earthworms available for food are probable causes.
They used to be a common sight in gardens cracking open snail shells on our paths and delighting us with their beautiful song. You can listen to some audio of a song thrush here.
In Chaucer and Shakespeare’s time they were known as throstles, which I think is a much more pleasing name for them. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bottom sings;
“The ousel cock so black of hue,
With orange-tawny bill;
The throstle with his note so true,
The wren with little quill.”
Thomas Hardy also name checks our spotty songbird in The Darkling Thrush. You can read the full poem here, but I shall quote a verse;
“At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.”
I can only hope that this iconic bird is making a comeback. If you have a couple of minutes to spare, I have put together a few clips from my wildlife camera of the thrush pottering about with some other feathered friends here. Oh yes, and now that the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is over, guess who showed up? Yep, Woody the great spotted woodpecker.