Alyth Bird Blog #5
Birds you can spot in Alyth during lockdown – fifth in a regular series
Hello again! This time we have three birds that can be found around farmland.
Does anything more evoke the feeling of spring arriving than the song of the skylark? Sadly, a generation of people are growing up (even in the country) unfamiliar with the musicality of its aerial flight song - its recent and dramatic population decline is attributed to changes in farming practice. Visually, it is unspectacular - a small brown bird, somewhat larger than a sparrow but smaller than a starling, it is streaky brown with a small crest, which can be raised when the bird is excited or alarmed.
FACTOIDS: Larks begin to sing early in the morning, hence ‘rising with the lark’. The glory of the lark’s song was captured by the composer Vaughan Williams in his romance ‘The Lark Ascending’ – listen to the bird then search online to hear the music! Roasted lark used to be a folk remedy for colic – but thankfully not in Scotland where anyone found eating a lark would receive three curses.
Listen to the skylark by clicking the photo above
Male yellowhammers are unmistakeable with a bright yellow head and underparts, brown back streaked with black, and chestnut rump. They are often seen perched on top of a hedge or bush, singing. In Scotland, the song is described using onomatopoeia as ‘Whetil te whetil te, wee!’, which is pretty accurate if you listen to one.
FACTOID: In Scotland it used to be known as the ‘Scotch canary’ .
Listen to the yellowhammer by clicking the photo above
The final bird this time is something slightly different – a member of the wader family normally associated with the seaside, the oystercatcher has spread inland in recent times to nest in short vegetation on farmland. It is a large, stocky, black and white bird with a long, orange bill and pink legs. In flight it shows a conspicuous white wing-stripe, often whilst making loud piping noises which immediately grab your attention. Most of our Scottish birds spend the winter on the coast where they are joined on the east coast by birds from Norway.
FACTOID: For some strange reason, the oystercatcher has developed an affinity to nest on the flat roofs of hospital and industrial estate buildings. Take a look out of the windows at Ninewells!
We hope that you have enjoyed our fifth Alyth Bird Blog – please feel free to comment, ask any questions, or post your photos.