Singing Skylarks high in the sky

Now there is so little traffic noise, I can hear skylarks singing as I lie in bed in the morning. Now that’s a novel excuse for a teenager – I’m not up because I’m listening to the skylarks sing! To which the obvious reply from a parent is ‘You are supposed to be up with the lark’!

As you take your daily walk, when you find yourself by some grassland, listen for continuous variable twittering/singing coming from high in the sky. If you are lucky you will be able to spot the tiny dot that is the bird singing. Even luckier, if you keep alert, you will see a bird at the start of its song, rising in stages from low to the ground, flying ever higher until it is so high it is out of sight. Or having found a skylark high in the sky, watch it as it drops like a diver towards the ground.

Skylark, showing its slight crest and mottle colouring. Photo: Jill Pakenham

You can listen to a skylark singing at https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/skylark/. Listening before you go out, will help you recognise it when you hear the song for yourself.

Of course each skylark goes to all this effort for good reason, not to entertain us. Male skylarks are the ones that sing. They are laying claim to the territory below them as belonging to them to nest in. Other males are to keep out. They are also declaring to the females how fantastic they are – the bird equivalent of Pick Me! Pick Me! Go to the bottom of the link page above and you can see a clip of a skylark feeding its demanding chicks. That shows these birds nest on the ground – something for dog walkers to be aware of during the breeding season.

The numbers of skylarks has drastically plummeted. The British Trust for Ornithology is investigating the best methods to conserve them. https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/species-focus/skylark. A main reason is that skylarks eat seeds and in the winter there are no longer the weeds seeds in the fields that there used to be. A Phd study showed how in winter, when days are short, the lack of seeds meant there was literally not enough hours of light for Skylarks to find enough food. Farmers are working with conservationists putting in measures to change this, including being paid to leave weedy patches.

Skylarks have inspired lots of music. Try this wonderful ballad sung by Dinah Shore in 1942 https://youtu.be/PVvIpFhBmqw. Or listen to the classic ‘The Lark Ascending’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams, (search eg Nicola Benedetti The Lark Ascending). As I listen I can feel my heart soaring; as the lark rises, just for a moment I am lifted out of Lockdown.

If you have children, they could make an origami bird, cum skylark. This website gives instructions for making a simple origami bird. https://origami.guide/origami-animals/origami-birds/easy-origami-bird/2/. Attach the bird to a long piece of string using sellotape. Make a small loop on the end of a stick, and pull the bird up through the loop, singing – or clattering saucepan lids together (maybe not what you need!) – as it rises.

My very own skylark rising

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