A sweet note, and then one more; a musical couplet, followed immediately by another, hesitant at first but gaining in confidence as the music from this song thrush drifted across the cold dawn air of the strath.
It was wonderful sound and a herald of spring, sparking thoughts of warm days and yellow-dazzled primroses bringing sparkle to our hedge banks. It will be several more weeks before this cock song thrush even thinks about mating, but for now, he is content to mark out his territory and advertise his presence to nearby females.
Besides, singing so early in the year will give him an advantage over other nearby males who have yet to tune-up. But on hearing his music, they will soon be galvanised into action, and in no time at all, the air will ring to the melody of several song thrushes each dawn. Even when it is cold and frosty, the throaty thrushes will sing, such is their zest for life and hunger to attract a partner.
Blackbirds linger behind in this early season chorus, with most not starting to sing until the end of February or the beginning of March. Both birds are superb songsters, but for me, the diverse repertoire of the song thrush just about edges it. But perhaps I’m being unfair, for the blackbird’s song is more liquid and smoother in quality; the ultimate in natural chill-out music.
The poet William Henley was certainly a blackbird fan: “The nightingale has a lyre of gold/The lark’s is a clarion call/And the blackbird plays but a boxwood flute/But I love him best of all”.
Other creatures, too, are thinking about breeding. In my local wood, the vixen’s traditional cubbing den has been freshly dug-out in preparation for giving birth in March, and outside a nearby badger sett I found discarded bedding from the animals’ spring cleaning in anticipation of their new arrivals.
This clan of badgers had a traumatic time last year because much of their home forest was felled. One can only imagine the stress the noise of power-saws and heavy vehicles must have caused. The foresters deliberately left the trees around the sett untouched, for which I am truly grateful.
This felled woodland now has the appearance of a desert wasteland; grey tree stumps and twisted branches. But nature’s powerful embrace will soon take hold, and by the summer the first green sprouts of pioneering plants such as foxgloves and rosebay willowherb will miraculously take hold. Invertebrates and fungi will busy themselves on recycling the tumbled wood and new life will spring forth.
I like that; the power of nature to bounce back. For the badgers, their home territory will once again become a tranquil place, where they can safely forage in search of earthworms and other small creatures. And in time, new trees will take root and the woodland will be on its way to returning to its former glory.