At the beginning of January this year, when walking in Brockwell Park, I saw a song thrush. Unmistakeable in its slim, elegant outline, whitish speckled front and greyish back. Shy, flying away straightway as I neared on the path. Too early in the year for her song, though.
Quite different from the female blackbird, semi-tame, who would continue her listening and prodding in the grass as I would near and pass; and dressed in rusty brown plumage, and plump. Up in the trees, blackbirds are calling from early before dawn.
Quite different again from the last time I saw a song thrush in the park, probably late April or early May, four years ago. A tragic drama was playing out. Two heavy black-billed crows were raiding the thrush’s nest, with the thrush screeching frantically, fluttering around, ineffectually. I had not seen one since, though looking forlornly.
This morning’s sighting reminded me of words quoted by Sir David Attenborough on a BBC ‘Tweet of the day’ a few years back, when introducing the Song Thrush: words from ‘Home thoughts from abroad’ by Robert Browning, second stanza:
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops, at the bent spray’s edge,
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
I hope we shall hear the song thrush in Brockwell Park again this May.
Edward Lavender, FoBP Committee Member