We’ll meet a wren, you know where


The weekend weather was a bit cooler than of late, but by later on Sunday, temperatures were beginning to pick up again.

I was up with the larks (literally) on Sunday, doing the first part of my Breeding Bird Survey, which has to be done at first light to locate all the singing males.

It was overcast but calm as I set off into the woods of Philiphaugh Estate near Selkirk to see and hear what was about. Each bird either seen or heard inside a designated 1km square is noted as the square is crossed twice along two predetermined routes, in different directions.

The exercise will be repeated in a few weeks’ time.

It is a great way to hone your skills at identifying bird song and the countryside is much more magical just after dawn, when things are just awakening to greet the new day.

There was nothing particularly rare about, but that is not the purpose of the survey.

The results taken from across the country are collated to give an indication of population trends of all breeding bird species, which can be affected by things like habitat change, weather conditions and climate change.

When I started doing it, it was paper and post-based, but now it is all entered online, which is great, as I can now look back at previous years’ results in an instant and compare trends on my own patch.

It was interesting to note that since I started about seven years ago, the average number of species has remained much the same, at around 20, with the top two being nearly always pheasant and wood pigeon.

Surprisingly, usually hovering around in third or fourth spot, is the tiny wren.

This is a really common bird, which few non-birders ever see. Its skulking habits of feeding in thick undergrowth and dark places, give it its scientific name Troglodytes troglodytes, which literally means cave dweller. This lovely little bird with the jaunty sticking-up tail, featured on one side of the farthing coin (I’m showing my age now!).

It may be hard to spot, but you’ll find it in almost every habitat in Britain, from the mountains to coastal cliffs.

Its explosive strident call is a dead giveaway and carries great distances.

At this time of year, the male builds several dome-shaped nests to try and entice a mate, and when one is selected, the female lines it with feathers.

Sometimes, a second brood is raised in the same nest.

Try and learn to recognise the song of the wren and you will be amazed how widespread it is.