the first bird of the year

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On the neighbour’s back wooden garden gate. Near the ripe ivy berries. Unmistakable.

The first bird seen in 2016, in the morning.

This is significant. A magical visitation. I was just making the tea and happened to look out the window, across to the left where my eyes found it.

I haven’t ever seen a Song Thrush from my back window before. This year I’ve heard them in the parks and gardens up and down Twickenham Riverside, but not from my back garden.

Why is seeing such a bird so awakening, so thrilling?  Perhaps because they are so illusive, shy, fluttering away before you even know they’re there. Perhaps because of that beautiful colouring, that speckled flecked chest. Perhaps because I know their song, and love it, and wonder at it.

Over 2015, I’ve been working with ornithologist and bird surveyor Jan Wilczur as co-lead of the Song Thrush species action plan in Richmond borough. We’re been looking out for them, asking other people to tell us of sightings, and talking with land managers along Twickenham Riverside from Kew up to Eel Pie Island, about protecting their habitats. So over the last year, I have become very tuned to hearing Song Thrushes as it’s hard to see them in the tops of the trees, or in the middle of the shrubs. So it’s that song, that singing I’m always listening for. Bright bright, loud. Yes loud, early in the morning and late at dusk.

So it’s no small thing for me, that the first bird of 2016 should be a Song Thrush. Magic for me. And a portent, I hope, of fixing my gaze on them often, often.

Help make a difference to them if you will. Leave the ivy to grow and make berries for over winter food. No slug pellets, and leave the snails to eat your garden plants – why not?  Put out shallow water bowls or trays in the garden for bird baths and watering holes. And then wait to see if the Song Thrush visits you …


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A familiar and popular songbird whose numbers are seriously declining,
especially on farmland

Woodland, hedgerows, shrubs and dense cover in parks and gardens
All year round, resident and migratory

Earthworms, snails, invertebrates and fruit

A repertoire of a hundred or so song phrases, clear and flute-like,
typically repeating each phrase several times over

Conservation status: Red


  1. What a lovely way to start the year Sue. When I was working at Kew it was always a thrill cycling from Lion Gate up to the Melon Yard through thrush song pooling around their perches – if sound had colour and you could view it from above, it would be like a series of overlapping circles, the colour concentrating towards the centre of each one. I always assumed they were song thrushes but your blog prompted me to research a bit further and I am now not sure whether I was hearing mistle or song thrushes,mas they were singing from very high up. What do you think? In the weeks up to Christmas there was a thrush singing strongly just south of The Shot Tower by the Crane…

    Thanks for a great post. Katie

  2. I love this, Sue! But it’s interesting that you recorded it in the morning. It reminds me of later winter afternoons for some reason. I can almost smell bare soil in the garden!

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