Saturday 8 March 2014

A Lesser Spotted Oddie is sighted. Twitchers go mad.

Spring is definitely on the horizon. Daffodils ahoy! 

I woke this morning to hear what sounded like four-and-twenty blackbirds singing their hearts out, Neil Diamond-style, at various distances from our window, creating echo effects as one song paused and another one got going. 

It's a sound that always makes me feel just a little bit happier about things (except BBC bias, of course.) 

Having listened very attentively one year to a particular blackbird (the one who perched on the tree nearest to our back room), I now know that blackbirds have very individual songs. 

This bird, which must have been a youngish blackbird, began the year with a rather feeble effort. It always started with the same snatch of melody (and I do mean 'always.') Then it would veer off, jazz-style, as it improvised its way on. As the year went on, its song got stronger and stronger and our 'pet' blackbird turned from a rank amateur into a pro within the space of about six months. And when it came back the following year, still starting its gigs with the same tune (albeit a much richer take on it), it had turned into Charlie 'Blackbird' Parker. 

Radio 4's ongoing series Tweet of the Day featured the blackbird (in spring) as one of its birds this week. 

This week's episodes were presented by a bird that used to be widespread across British TV, but has become much rarer these days - the Lesser Spotted Oddie (sometimes mistaken for a Bearded Tit), known for its short Bill, and whimsical narrations. 

The Lesser Spotted Oddie could be a feisty creature (a very Crossbill indeed), especially during interviews with under-informed BBC interviewers. 

I distinctly remember it getting particularly grumpy with the Great Crested Turnbill (turnbullus salfordus) on BBC Breakfast (though, for rudeness, it didn't go as far as the Blue-throated Geldof, which famously squawked, "Shut up, you stupid man!", at the Breakfast presenter.)

Still, it was pleasant to hear the Lesser Spotted Oddie back in its old habitat this week, even if only to feed briefly, before flying off again as BBC execs (with long memories) rush in, waving their arms around frantically and hastily erecting scarecrows (each one looking remarkably like Martin Games-Hughes) all around the grounds of New Broadcasting House. 

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