March 28, 2015

Sing it back

We heard a chiffchaff today, on Tooting Common. I'm ashamed to say that not long ago I found it hard to tell its song apart from a great tit's – but now I have it locked in, and as is usually the case, actually watching one sing is what helps the sound to be 'locked in'.

Some overwinter here now, but most chiffchaffs arrive in March from the Mediterranean to haunt scrubby places like parks, gardens and railway embankments. Humble and comparatively unmusical, their repetitive notes carry such emotional freight not because of their beauty, but because it is the first of the spring migrants whose song you'll hear – and so they stand as a marker in the turning year, and a promise of everything to come.