Saturday, June 10, 2017

UK 2017 - Songbirds

ISSUE DATE: 4 May 2017
 STAMP SIZE: 35 x 35 mm
STAMP DESIGN: Osborne Ross

From those with simple melodies to those with complex repertoires, our captivating songbirds can stir the soul with their uplifting choruses. As spring arrives and moves slowly into summer, one bird after another joins in until our gardens, hedgerows and parks echo with song.

Featuring the Great Tit, Wren, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Skylark, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Nightingale, Cuckoo and Yellowhammer.

Great Tit Parus major
Great tits are among the first birds to welcome the spring, and they do so with varied songs that are strident, vigorous, monotonous and unmistakable. The most common consists of loud, much-repeated syllables often transcribed as ‘teacher-teacher- teacher’. 

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
If you hear a song of astonishing volume from round about knee-high, chances are that it’s a wren. It seems barely possible for so small a creature to make such a din. The song is hard and dry and rattly, and it is usually marked by a prolonged trill at the end. 

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
The first willow warbler tends to announce the arrival of the high spring. These birds fly in from western Africa to spend the summer with us – a prodigious journey for such a small bird. The song is a soft, lisping descent down the scale, much repeated with subtle variations. 

Goldcrest Regulus regulus
These are Britain’s smallest birds, and they have a thin little song to match. It’s most often heard from the top of a conifer tree: a pretty trickle of golden notes that you could easily overlook. 

Skylark Alauda arvensis
Skylarks are essentially ground birds that make their living from open spaces of grass, heath and arable fields, often remaining inconspicuous. It’s only when the spell of spring is upon them that they take to the air for a sustained period, and up they go – as if being wound up on an invisible string.

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Blackcaps have often been claimed as Britain’s champion songsters. Their song is fruity and fluty but mixes in more challenging notes and phrases. They like to sing from cover and are not often seen – they are secret superstars. 

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Song thrushes are mad about repetition. They take a phrase, run through it two or three times, then come up with another and repeat that. They like to do so from a high, often exposed perch: the top of a mature tree is best, but even a lamp post will do.

Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
Nightingales don’t just sing at night; they also sing all day. It’s the most strenuous option taken up by any songbird. And what a song: louder than you’d believe possible, a crescendo of whistles, a deep throbbing drumming, strange radiophonic sounds and snatches of pure melody.

Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 
The two-syllable song was once known to everyone in the country but is now a comparative rarity. Yet in the right places – often low-lying and damp – the cuckoos arrive for a six-week frenzy of sound, from late April to the beginning of June. 

Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
The yellowhammer’s song was once the song of traditional farmland: this is a hedge-loving bird singing a much-repeated phrase that is traditionally written as ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’, although it’s more like ‘bread-bread-bread-bread cheeeeeese’.

Stamp images and description thanks to Royal Mail