The song thrush
Writer and photographer, David Chapman, tells us more about the song thrush and how to make it welcome in your garden
Song thrush numbers are in serious decline, which is a shame for gardeners as one of its preferred foods is snails, which it cracks open on rocks. They also have a very beautiful song, as the name suggests.
The song thrush has long held a place in our hearts and this is reflected in the huge number of references to this bird in literature including works by Chaucer and Shakespeare. However you won’t always find it referred to as a song thrush since in those days it was more often known of as either a 'mavis' or a 'throstle'.
In spring I find the voice of the song thrush to be one of the most uplifting sounds of nature. The distinctiveness of its repertoire has captured the imaginations of people throughout time. Robert Browning wrote about the song thrush in his poem Home Thoughts from Abroad:
"That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!"
Not only does this poem hint at the significance of the thrush’s song but also one of its most recognisable features; the song thrush invariably repeats itself. Not every phrase in its repertoire is melodic or fluty but its notes are always very clear.
While a blackbird’s notes blend into each other smoothly, those of a song thrush are more random and punctuated by short gaps. The song thrush sings better with age and even picks up extra notes during the spring and summer; it is able to mimic sounds in its environment so it is likely that a bird will hear notes from other birds and add them to its own song.
To help protect our song thrushes we can make our gardens more welcoming to them. Firstly we can plant climbers against walls and allow shrubs to establish themselves in quiet corners of the garden to provide places for thrushes to nest.
Fortunately thrushes eat earthworms so an area of lawn is good for them but using slug pellets is most definitely not. Apart from eating worms, song thrushes also take a lot of snails and some slugs. Song thrushes will take food from a low bird table once they are accustomed to do so; mealworms, fruit (including sultanas) and pieces of cake will all be taken gratefully.
Finally a source of water is vital for them so a small pond or bird bath, regularly topped up with fresh water, is a good idea.
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