blackbird-illustrationOften the first birds to appear in the morning are the Blackbirds. They are members of the Thrush family. The male is a dramatic black with orange beak and eye ring; the female is more subtly coloured, speckled with browns and blacks. Their melodic song can be heard  in the dawn chorus, and often through the night.

Blackbird drinksThey come into the garden singly or together, and they have a presence about them.

A Blackbird will swoop in and come to a sudden stop, head and tail lifted high, going from flight to instantaneous suspended animation. Its unblinking eyes seem to look straight through you, fixing you with its stare. Is it reading your mind? Are you friend or foe?

‘The Blackbird has long been associated with the ‘Otherworld’. Believed to sing its loudest during the twilight period between day and night, the link is not surprising. Another time the Blackbird sings loudly is following a heavy downpour, earning it its other name of ‘Stormcock’.

Richard Meyers, Forgotten Folklore: Myths and Magic in Islington

Blackbird touched up
Blackbirds trawl through leaf litter and ground cover for slugs, snails, worms, insects – any protein. They will take advantage of dried mealworms and suet nibbles sprinkled on a stack of roof tiles by the birdbath. And, as our video clip below shows, they will patronise a suitable birdfeeder when mealworms and suet pellets are on offer. An empty snail shell on a tile or stone could be a clue to a Blackbird meal: the shell is held in the beak and thrashed against the ‘anvil’ to dislodge the mollusc.

Mrs Blackbird, mealworms on tilesBlackbird battles happen in springtime over a number of back gardens. The prize is a nesting spot in an Elder tree behind a house on Plimsoll Road, the street behind ours, and access to a number of back gardens, including ours, to feed.

Nests, eggs and chicks are zealously guarded, with a relentless, piercing pink-pink-pink that can go on for 20 minutes… When you look out to see the cause of it all, there may be a cat quite close to the nest, with Blackbird parent(s) only feet away diving, flapping, hovering and making that annoying alarm call until the cat gives up and moves off.