NATURE NOTES - Which thrush is which?

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I WAS up early on Sunday morning and the clear sky just before dawn and the crisp frost tempted me to venture forth into the wood to see the sunrise through the trees.

It’s never quiet in the wood and the morning was a good example – still dark and a mistle thrush and robin were ‘practising’ their songs with a single blackbird continually clacking away with its alarm call. The mistle thrush is a pretty much underappreciated bird – it’s the blackbird and song thrush that gets all the accolades.

So mistle thrush or missile thrush as it is known by the family – how do you tell them apart? Song is a good start but not a really easy task for beginners. Although timing can be a good help, as they usually start singing their songs at different times of the year, first is the mistle thrush, followed by the blackbird and then the song thrush, and this is often the best way of learning the differences. The blackbird has by far the sweetest song of the three – its liquid song, can, on a still morning rival the nightingale for me. Blackbirds sing from February to June, but will sing on a sunny winter’s day just for the fun of it.

The song thrush is so pleased by the sound of its song it almost always repeats its favourite individual notes or phrases at least twice, often four or five times, or more. It is almost as if the song thrush tries a song, likes it so much, it sings it again and again and again. I suppose Robert Browning hit the nail on the head with his poem......

That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, Lest you should think he never could recapture The first fine careless rapture!

The song thrush sings from March to July, but will sometimes practice its song or sub song as it’s known by bursting out with the occasional phrase or couple of notes.

The mistle thrush’s song is not ‘flutey’ like the blackbird’s, nor is it as fluid; it is delivered much faster than the blackbird’s but of a similar volume. It does not repeat itself like the song thrush. The song is loud, pretty shrill and ringing, but it is also much less varied and pretty monotonous than the other two, comprising several distinct notes to each phrase with a pause between phrases. It repeats its full song from beginning to end but not the notes or phrases.

Mistle thrushes will sing from ‘on high’ often on the very top of a tree from December to June often during bad weather hence its old name of ‘Stormcock’.