Entries tagged with “Bird song”.


June is possibly one of my favourite months to be in Edinburgh, it is that period between the students leaving and the tourists arriving en masse. The city is quiet, it’s just the locals, the long term residents, who are in the city. We who actually live here have our city to ourselves for a short while.

As I write today, the sky is blue and the sun is shining, but the weather in June is not always so kind. A few days ago it was decidedly dreich, not for nothing has Edinburgh been described as the Reykjavík of the south, we are on the edge of the sub Arctic here. Another effect of this is the length of the day, visitors from the middle latitudes are surprised to find that it is still light at 10:30 at night. We are not so far north though that there is enough light to read by at midnight without turning the lights on (I have experienced this in Norway). At this time of year the nights are short, and so birds start singing early. It reminds me of my student days, wandering home as the birds are starting to sing.

Although the tourist masses have yet to arrive, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing going on in Edinburgh in June. There is the Edinburgh International Film Festival, although this is a shadow of its former self and no longer attracts the big stars that it once did. There is the Meadows Festival, the Royal Highland Show, which in spite of its name is actually held at Ingliston out by the airport, and a number of other events.

Then there are those quintessentially Edinburgh things, such as a group of archers doing a spot of target practice in the middle of a public park, because that is what they have always done since 1676. Health and Safety be hanged, it is important you know, without this essential target practice, how can they be expected to guard the monarch when she visits Scotland, if they don’t practice?

If you want to eat out in Edinburgh in June, book early, as the Graduation season has moved (in my day it was in July). The new graduates of Edinburgh’s four universities and their (rightly) proud parents, dine out in the better restaurants across the city, but worry not, there are plenty of good places to eat in Edinburgh.

Another feature of Edinburgh in early summer is the rash of For Sale and To Let signs that appear across the city. This usually starts in May, with a sudden rush of For Sale boards (although in recent years it has been less pronounced) and is followed by the To Let signs in June, as the students end their studies and exit the city. For savvy students looking to rent (or their parents looking to buy), this is the time to find the good flats. The ones with easy access to their chosen university and/or the fleshpots of the city centre.

The denizens of this southern Reykjavík are always ready to celebrate the appearance of the sun. This is done by heading to the parks and open green spaces to show copious quantities of white flesh to the sky in the hope of frightening the sun away. Should this tactic fail, they resort lighting fires to sacrifice burnt offerings to the gods of rain. This tactic usually works.

Arthur's Seat on an evening in JuneArthur’s Seat on an evening in June.

Life in Edinburgh is never dull, however, June is rather more laid back.

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It is strange how some noises can rouse you from a deep sleep to full alertness in a moment. This morning I heard one such noise, a strange voice at about 03:30, the odd thing about this one is that it was it was a blackbird (Turdus merula) singing. At this time of year in Edinburgh the sun rises at 04:26, but it starts to get light about an hour earlier and so that’s when the dawn chorus starts.

Normally the dawn chorus doesn’t bother me too much it is a daily event in spring and early summer, I am used to it and if it does wake me I use roll over and go back to sleep. This time was different the blackbird singing was a stranger, it wasn’t one of the locals which I was used to. The song was less complex and had slightly different tone, possible a juvenile male trying out his voice for the first time or maybe a vagrant who has moved in from another area, although it is rather early in the year for such migrations. Either way I lay and listened to it for half and hour or so before going back to sleep.

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I didn’t sleep well last night, no particular reason it just happens sometimes, one consequence of this was that I was awake when the first bird started to sing. At 03:27 a robin (Erithacus rubecula) started singing followed by another robin at 03:34, the first blackbird (Turdus merula) to sing a little after 04:00 (did quite catch the time). That last one I identified was a chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) at 04:57, after that I drifted off to sleep until my alarm went off just before 07:00. The thing that strikes me most is that the chaffinch was the closes one to the sun rise at 04:53, it interesting that they started so early, by the time my alarm went off most of the singing had stopped. Could it be that they start early to avoid competing with the noise of the rush hour traffic?

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Bear