birdsong

Woods alive to the sound and throb of spring: Country diary 100 years ago | Environment | The Guardian

 

Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 1 May 1917, this little insight into the sounds of the countryside a century ago makes for an enchanting read.

But there’s a more sombre angle to take note of as well: with the numbers of songbirds declining in the UK, our dawn chorus is getting harder and harder to hear. The sounds of spring today are much less rich than in our parents’ and grandparents’ generation.

SongBird Survival aims to save the dawn chorus for tomorrow by researching the reasons for songbird decline in the UK, and promoting solutions to restore their numbers.

With International Dawn Chorus Day taking place this weekend, Sunday 7th May, now is a fantastic time to get outdoors and hear this wonderful natural spectacle for yourself.

Source: Woods alive to the sound and throb of spring: Country diary 100 years ago | Environment | The Guardian

 

Sunshine releases all the sounds of spring | Environment | The Guardian

Great article in the Guardian about the Swedish art of gökotta. With International Dawn Chorus Day next month, there’s plenty to get up early for at this time of year!

Swedes call it ‘early cuckoo morning’ – the act of getting up just to enjoy the first birdsong.

Read more here: Source – Sunshine releases all the sounds of spring | Environment | The Guardian

Regional dialects in songbirds

A fascinating citizen science project has successfully mapped the distribution of dialects in yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella) in both New Zealand and the UK.

Yellowhammers, like us, have regional dialects, with differences in their song depending on the region that they live. A familiar farmland bird in the UK, the species was introduced to New Zealand over 100 years ago, and this has provided researchers with a unique opportunity to investigate two completely isolated populations.

The Yellowhammer Dialects project used citizen science volunteers to record yellowhammer song in the field. This allowed the project to access lots of data from across a very large area, which was then compared with historic recordings from archives. All this information was then used to accurately map the composition and distribution of different dialects in the two countries.

Researchers found an interesting difference in dialect between the populations of yellowhammers, with New Zealand yellowhammers sing nearly twice as many different dialects than yellowhammers in the UK.

They explain this result by suggesting that New Zealand yellowhammers have retained song structures which were originally from the UK, but have subsequently been lost in the mother country, perhaps due to the widespread decline in yellowhammers in the UK.

The yellowhammer dialect system may be the avian equivalent of a phenomenon already noted in human languages, in which ancient words or structures are retained in expatriate communities.

A fascinating finding, and one which will hopefully be complemented by further results in the near future; after the success of this project, the researchers have decided to host sister projects in both Switzerland and Poland.

The full research paper can be found here.

Urban ecology: noise and light pollution affect how robins sing

A researcher at the University of Southampton has found that robins in urban environments are affected by noise and light pollution.

The study by Frances Mullany used a fake robins to measure how the quality of robin territory was affected by its proximity to a lit path and a road.

Robins hold territories all year round, individually over winter, and as a pair during the breeding season. If you’ve ever strayed too close to a male robin’s territory, you may have encountered their aggression as these feisty little characters defend their patch. Male birds in particular are aggressive and very vocal in defending good quality territory.

Robin Feb 16

By setting up fake birds in different robin territories throughout an urban park, Frances was able to record how aggressively each of the birds in the park that responded, sang and displayed in response.

The study found that the robins that lived closer to lit paths and noisy roads displayed less aggressively than those who were further away.

Although urban pollution didn’t stop robins from singing, it certainly had a marked effect on the birds’ behaviour. The results of this study lay the foundation for further research into why these territories are less well defended, and has interesting implications for urban planning and design in the future.

 

Bird watching for mental health

A new study has found that living in an area with lots of birds, shrubs and trees can have a positive effect on your mental health.

The collaborative project between the University of Exeter, the BTO and the University of Queensland surveyed nearly 300 people to investigate which components of nature are linked to positive mental-health outcomes.

Researchers assessed the impacts of vegetation cover and bird abundance on levels of depression, anxiety of stress. They found that people living in neighbourhoods with higher levels of vegetation cover and afternoon bird abundance, had reduced severity of depression, anxiety, and stress. Furthermore, the study found that those people that spent less time outdoors were also susceptible to feeling more anxious and depressed.

The positive effects of nature on well-being have long been documented. A review for the Wildlife Trusts carried out by the University of Essex in 2015 found significant improvements to well-being as a result of contact with nature.

For those of us that live in urban areas, the majority have access to a park or garden, and this research shows that getting outside and enjoying what nature has to offer is a cheap, easy, and surprisingly effective way of improving your health.

With spring just around the corner, now is a fantastic time to experience the UK’s bird life and the wonder of the dawn chorus. Why not visit SongBird Survival’s dawn chorus page for a taste of what’s in store? Once you’ve heard the magic of birds welcoming a new day with their song, we’re sure you’ll want to get out there, enjoy it and feel better!

The full research paper can be read here.

Saving Our Dawn Chorus

What is behind the continuing decline of our songbirds today? What are the underlying reasons and what potential solutions should be investigated?

SongBird Survival is committed to finding out the answers to these questions through commissioning quality scientific research into the issue.

In 2016, we produced a short film, presented by ecologist Katy Thomas, introducing SongBird Survival and looking at where the UK’s famous dawn chorus is heading.

Since the 1970s, populations of songbirds in the UK have crashed, and our dawn chorus is far less rich and diverse than it was in our parents’ and grandparents’ day.

Yellowhammer populations have declined by 55%, cornbunting numbers are down by 87%, whilst tree sparrows have suffered a rapid decline of 95%. These figures are shocking, but what is causing our small birds populations to crash? Loss of habitat? Predation? Intensification of farming?

SongBird Survival believes that research is the key to understanding why.

We fund high quality scientific research to investigate the drivers behind these population declines and promote evidence-based solutions to restore songbird numbers.

With your support we hope to draw attention to the plight of our song and other small birds. Your membership and donations help to fund our research programme and add weight to our work with other organisations. Together, we can save our songbirds before it’s too late.

To find out more about our research and objectives, watch our YouTube video.

SBS YouTube (2)

We partner with like-minded organisations to commission targeted research into areas where scientific evidence is currently sparse, inadequate or lacking.

To date we have partnered with the University of Exeter, the University of Reading, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, and the University of St Andrews, in projects which examine the potential causes behind songbird population decline. Such research produces high-quality, peer-reviewed research papers, contributing to ornithological and ecological knowledge in the UK.

We have exciting future projects in the pipeline, and will be bringing you news of this very soon. In the mean time, further information about our current and past research programmes can be seen on our website.

SongBird Survival: Saving Songbirds With Science