Birdsong can be a delightful sound to hear at dawn and dusk. The calls of song thrushes and house martins can be welcome sounds in places full of busy noises, and spotting a chiffchaff flitting about in a tree can make you stop and take notice of nature for a while.
As the days warm up, opening your window on an early morning can bring the freshness of the season into your home. When you take a moment to listen, you'll begin to notice different calls of birds enjoying the bluer skies with you. Birdsong is a sign that native species have returned to our gardens and streets, telling us that sunnier days are on their way.
Enjoy the chorus of birdsong wherever you may be, and share videos and photos with loved ones to connect others to what you hear. Though others may seem far away right now, hearing birdsong together can bring a sense of peace in turbulent times. Why not video call a loved one in your garden to experience this together?
Birds to spot over spring
Bullfinches are bright rose-red with a smart black cap. Listen out for a couple of low whistles, and keep watch high up in the hedgerows or fruit trees, and there you may see bullfinches methodically eating fresh flowering buds.
As soon as March arrives, so does the two-note call of the chiffchaff. The bird is named after its call. They're little green-brown leaf warblers with a pale eye-stripe, flitting around in the higher branches of trees and bushes.
The song thrush perches in the treetops to sing its heart out in a pattern of identical repeated phrases. If you see a bird with a spotted breast and pale brown back, it's sure to be a song thrush.
Swallows are metallic blue with long tail streamers and a dash of fire-red at their throat and you will most likely see them first gliding low over the meadow grass or dipping into a pond.
The song of a willow warbler can be heard around April. They are close cousins of the chiffchaff, and are pale brown and a little more difficult to spot.
Want to know more about your favourite wildlife throughout the seasons? Make sure you check out Every Day Nature by Andy Beer, on sale from April 2020.
We've been seeing a steady decline of the habitats that birds love to nest and sing in. If you want to make a promise to nature to help the birds where you are, scroll further down to find out how you can do this.
The sound of birdsong in our gardens and green spaces is always a source of delight. But how can you identify the different birds in a chorus of birdsong?
We've asked ornithologist and ecologist Pete Brash to guide you through a recording of birdsong. Pete has made a note of the time at which you can hear a different bird. Before you know it, you'll be picking out the call of the chaffinch, chiffchaff and their feathered friends.
Teach yourself how to recognise different birdsong
Listen to the dawn chorus wherever you are with this immersive recording of birdsong. You'll be able to hear robins, jenny wrens, song thrushes and more. Scroll down to learn what birds you're hearing at different points in the audio.
A robin sings first until about 1:20. Robins have a variable warbling, given in short phrases with longer gaps in between. The phrases can be quite piercing or sweet and syrupy.
Next, there are two different species which seem to be competing, chaffinch and wren.
The chaffinch begins to sing at around 1:26, and it's the wren which carries on up to 1:30. It's a wren that kicks off proceedings at around 1:38 but again the chaffinch interrupts at 1:40.
The chaffinch is best heard in isolation from 1:49-1:51. The song starts out with a few slow, clear notes (chip, chip, chip) before speeding up and then finishing with a real flourish.
The wren has a very loud, excited and hurried song. They are capable of belting out over 700 notes per minute. It’s an incredibly loud song for such a tiny bird.
A blackbird can be heard giving its melodious and mellow song throughout the section from 1:20 to 2:10.
Chiffchaff and song thrush
Two birds with repetitive songs dominate the rest of the recording – the chiffchaff and song thrush.
The chiffchaff sings its name, so it's easy to recognise. Listen out particularly between 2:18 -2:20 and again at 2:26-2:29.
The song thrush has a varied song broken into clear sections of a note or phrase which is repeated four or five times. Listen out for these slightly different phrases repeated at 2:15, 2:24, 2:34, 2:47 and 2:52.
Other species you can hear include wood pigeon, carrion crow, blue tit, blackcap, mallard, pheasant, coot and great-crested grebe.
Our smallest bird, the goldcrest, can be distinctly heard giving its very thin song at 0:12 and again at 1:02.
There are nearly 600 species of birds known in the UK, from resident garden birds to seasonal migratory visitors. We've pulled together some top tips that you can use for spotting our feathered friends outside your window or in your garden.
Practice makes perfect
If you’re confused between two species the best thing to do is to read about them and then seek each species out in its natural habitat. Once you've got a good description of the bird, and the more you experience a bird’s behaviour, the better you’ll be at spotting it in the future.
Understanding the structure of birds’ bodies and the terms used, particularly for different groups of feathers, is useful knowledge to have to hand in the field, especially when referring to identification guides.
Another way to identify different species is through their songs and, surprisingly, they are relatively easy to learn.
You’ll already recognise blackbird, blue tit, chiffchaff and robin calls without even realising it. The RSPB eGuide to British Birds app is a really helpful tool for checking birdsong you hear when you’re out spotting.
Some of the easiest bird species to spot are our native garden birds, and you can improve your chances by creating a welcoming habitat for them. A garden full of native shrubs, flowers and grasses and free of excessive fertilizer and pesticide will be much more inviting for birds and may tempt in some unusual ones. Plants such as rowan, wild cherry and elder are particularly good – birds will love their berries and the insects they attract.
It’s not a good idea to feed wild birds bread in your garden – it’s not good for them and you’ll be more likely to attract crows instead.
If you do feed birds peanuts, crush them up first as young birds can choke on full-sized nuts. Overall the best approach is to feed birds foods that would naturally be growing at that time of year – seeds in the summer, nuts in the autumn.
It’s now more important than ever to play our part, big or small, in keeping these homes as healthy havens for wildlife like birds. We've seen a decline in these habitats in recent years.
There are lots of things you can do at home and in local community spaces to help wildlife to thrive. You could try building your own DIY bug, bee or bird house. Why not get the whole family involved in making homemade seed balls to feed the birds?