Country diary: in the dawn chorus, no one wants to be outsung


Lagan Meadows, Belfast: Straining to be heard over the rush-hour traffic, some birds even tweak the pitch of their song to a higher register

I emerge from the gloom of the woods to a stain of sunrise above the far trees. The meadow is encircled by a bower of song. Thrush species dominate: a blackbird’s languidly phrased minor notes; rival song thrushes brandishing what the poet Katharine Towers aptly described as “tried-and-tested triplets”; and distantly, the urgent strains of a mistle thrush. Against this musical canvas, a nearby robin skirls plaintively. From the foliage behind him, my ear catches a whispering crescendo – its squeaky tone and rolling delivery make the goldcrest a cinch.

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