The Birds of May

Happy May Day! Get your Maypole unwound and arrange those flowers! Time to celebrate when actual Spring started showing up in the northern reaches of Europe.

050116 maypole

With the easing of the night frosts, things began to grow, and cattle were turned out to eat the new grass. Dairy cows turned the grass into much better milk than they could do on dry fodder and produced in abundance. Things began to look up. Up where the birds hang out.

People began to move out of doors during the day, singing, feasting, dancing, and in general carrying on. One popular song is The Hawthorne Tree, which mentions the thrush and the blackbird. The Mayday Song mentions the lark and the kite. There’s a fun song about green leaves growing all around that talks about the bird and the egg, but doesn’t specify which bird. So we’ll look at these four birds for May.

050116 male blackbird
male blackbird
050116 female blackbird
female blackbird

Blackbirds stay in the British Isles year round, making them the most spotted playground bird in the UK. They are sexually dimorphic, with hens showing brown plumage and confusing the issue of the name. They are also often mistaken for starlings, which birds like to hang out with blackbirds. So who knows if those blackbirds in the pie were actually all of the same species?

Thrushes are little brown song birds, happily eating snails, worms, and berries in the garden. They also hang out in the Isles year round, but are in serious danger of extinction. The blackbird is actually a thrush but the thrush repeats song phrases which is not something the blackbird does. Perhaps that is why one of the family is called the song thrush. There are other types of thrush, but Mayday is about song, so we’ll go with that.

050116 thrush

A lark is such a happy little bird that its name is associated with jokes and fun. Known for hovering about a field while singing a bubbly, up-beat song that goes on for long minutes and can be heard from far off, its numbers are declining as farmers change centuries-old timing of when they plant their crops. By the time the birds start choosing mates and picking territory, the crops have been harvested and the fields left bare, instead of just ripening. Skylarks also try to keep the location of their nests a secret, and pop up to lead intruders away from their chicks.

050116 sky lark

Finally, the red kite is a small, sleek hunter that nearly went extinct, but thanks to the world’s longest running protection programme – er, program. They have been reintroduced throughout the kingdom and are especially scenic along the Galloway Kite Trail. That goes on the bucket list!

050116 red kite

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.


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