The Birds are Returning

(April 2020)

In the early weeks of Spring, migrating birds are often easier to spot and hear. Confined to our gardens and immediate surroundings, it’s a great time to look around and, importantly, listen around. It’s migration time!

Migrating birds are often easier to spot and hear in the early weeks of Spring. In mid-March the leaves on deciduous trees have yet to appear, so birds can be seen more easily. After recovering from their journeys, they are desperate to find a mate and often don’t mind who knows it. We have been serenaded in the nearby spinney for the last couple of weeks by a song thrush whose energy in singing non-stop during daylight hours would put Pavarotti to shame.

To be honest, it’s not the most beautiful of songs with its endlessly repeated short phrases, nothing like our beloved blackbird which is already building a nest in an outhouse. And the thrush is not singing for our entertainment either, just advertising himself as available for procreation.  But he may move on soon, as the next migrant arrives: the chiffchaff (the featured image). Its song replicates its name; but can be confused with the slower  ‘teacher-teacher’ of the infinitely variable song of the great tit. Other warblers will arrive in due course and good luck with sorting them out.


Extra time to tend the garden is very useful at this time of year. There’s so much to do and the season seems to speed past.  It should be a great time to grow and share produce, safely of course.

But when contacted by friends who said they had tidied their front garden and back garden twice already, alarm bells started to ring about the well-being of wildlife. We are told not to be too tidy and that some wildlife likes a mess, dark corners and undisturbed places. Some of our garden certainly looks like a stereotypical teenager’s bedroom — you get the idea — but if we are thinking of radical change during this difficult time please consider the impact on fellow creatures.

For more guidance, about gardening to benefit wildlife and identifying bird calls, there are two brilliant RSPB books, Gardening for Wildlife and Guide to Birdsong (which includes a CD), both written by Adrian Thomas. There’s also a helpful website Wildlife Gardening Forum —

Jolyon Oxley

See also the RSPB’s web page The Migration of Birds

(First published, 25 March 2020)

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