Let Nature Sing

Introducing the stars of Let Nature Sing

Adrian Thomas profiles the second star soloist on our Let Nature Sing single, a sound that bubbles over with enthusiasm.

Crescendo and vibrato

Half way through Let Nature Sing, a bird enters the scene with a sound that builds in a perfect but wild crescendo of rising, pulsating whistles. Like a finely trained classical singer, his notes are full of evocative vibrato.

This surging bubble is made by the male curlew. It is our largest wading bird, and during the winter months you can hear its much simpler, rising “curlew” calls on muddy estuaries around the UK, where it elegantly strides, probing into the soft mud with its long, curved bill. Yes, this is another bird that was named after its call.

An echoing love song

However, the male’s turn on the Let Nature Sing microphone is his more extravagant display call, and is a sound that echoes around some of our wildest moorlands, heaths and river valleys. It may not technically be a song, but it serves much the same purpose: it is a love song to his mate, and a signal to other males that this patch of ground is his.

He sings from the ground, but also in a display flight over his territory – “kooor kooor kooor KOOORLEEE KOOORLEEE KOOORLEEE KOOORLEEE”.

The curlew's decline

When I was a child in the 1980s in Worcestershire, curlews still bred in the farmer’s fields down the lane from my house, nesting in the wheat fields and feeding out in the grasslands along the brook. However, they are long gone from there and indeed from much of their former lowland range.

Sobering statistics

Even in their moorland heartland, numbers are struggling, and this is a bird whose future we are very worried about. More than half the breeding population was lost between 1995 and 2012 in Scotland and declines since the 1980s and 90s in Wales and Northern Ireland are more than 80% - a staggering four out of every 5 pairs have gone.

The UK holds more than a fifth of the entire world breeding population, giving us an incredible responsibility to look after it.

Read more here about the problems and what is being done to address them.

Where to hear a curlew

In the winter, you can hear the simple “curlew” call from many of our muddy estuaries around the UK. However, to hear the bubbling display call at its best, your choices are more limited. I made the Let Nature Sing recording at dusk out on the glorious North York Moors, but other places you might like to go to try and hear them include: RSPB Dove Stone (Greater Manchester); our RSPB Orkney reserves, such as Hobbister; RSPB Geltsdale (Cumbria) and RSPB Otmoor (Oxfordshire).

Want to learn more about birdsong?

Adrian’s new book and recordings, The RSPB Guide to Birdsong, was released this April. Proceeds from those sold through the RSPB shop go to nature conservation.

Chart success!

Let Nature Sing was your opportunity to put the birds you care about on the main stage. Thanks to you, we reached #18 in the charts! Thank you for helping us make history. Don’t forget you can still buy/stream the song and show your support for nature.

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