I think there was a streak of pearl in the sky on the way home from work this week, a slight lessening of the night. Perhaps it's the first hint that the shortest days are behind us. This morning I ran across Aller Moor, my boots skating on the black ice, dawn had definitely moved on. There was a raven, that great, raggedy bird of the high and wild places, cronking its hoarse song in the meadow. What are you doing down here in the flatlands? In the distance I could hear the cranes bugling as they rose from their roost. They circled and gathered before heading off to their feeding grounds, leaving their haunting cries on the wind. A thrush dashed ahead of me, chattering its alarm as it dipped and twisted away. And at intervals along the rhyne there were robins. Some sat high on lookout trees and others had settled deep in secret thickets. They were all singing their loud, rich songs.
Robins sing their loudest songs at this time of year. All robins sing, but the males are fiercely territorial and try to defend their local patch all year. Before the other birds join the dawn chorus, and late into the evenings, the robins are singing. There is one that sits high above the chicken coop and when I wade out through the mud to open up in the barely-there dawn, or hurry out late at night to lock up, he is singing. It is an extraordinarily powerful song for such a small bird. Short, sweet passages and trills are punctuated by silence as he listens for rivals or mates. I find it hypnotic and always stop to listen: a private moment shared on my local, local patch.