We’ve had exquisite birdsong – liquid, melodious, varied – around our place for the past two or three weeks because a pair of Grey Shrike-Thrushes have taken up residence in our street. They swoop between gardens, but are especially fond of our elderly neighbour Margaret. They perch on the sill outside her kitchen and serenade her; they wake her up at dawn by singing at her bedroom window. The other evening, while I was visiting, one of them was tap-tapping at the glass as if to say, ‘Notice me.’
And this Sunday morning, at about half-past seven, when I was having an early cup of tea out in the garden, birdsong spilled out of next-door’s trees and started my day on a note of delight.
We were unsure at first about the identity of the bird but the handy Simpson and Day Field Guide settled it for us. The Shrike-thrush is, appropriately, of the race harmonica.
The singing this morning reminded me of a poem in a book* my mother gave me when I was little. I reached it down from a high shelf just now, and found what I was looking for.
ONE SUNDAY MORNING EARLY
One Sunday morning early
I heard the blackbird sing;
From out the olive thicket
His song took wing
What silver coin he had to spare –
The sudden wealth lay everywhere.
It’s a pity it’s ‘blackbird’, not shrike-thrush. Not only are blackbirds a pestiferous introduced species, they scatter my mulch all over the place and besides, they are of the race Turdus.
*One Sunday Morning Early by Irene Gough, illustrated by Noela Young: Ure Smith, Sydney 1963