If I saw this bird perched out in the open like this, my first thought would be ‘Hmm, what’s that?’ and I’d be flicking through the possibilities in my head before quite quickly getting to the right answer. I’ve rarely seen this species as well as Tim Melling photographed this one, although I’ve heard it hundreds of times.
I’m pretty sure that the first Grasshopper Warbler that knowingly came into my life was on Brean Down, Somerset, in late April 1970 on a school birdwatching outing. There were a few Grasshopper Warblers, or Groppers, that had arrived from Africa on their spring migration and they were singing from the scrub on the sheltered side of the humpbacked point which sticks out into the Bristol Channel.
The song is easy – they sound like grasshoppers or crickets, hence the name. there are some other species with similar songs but you aren’t very likely to come across any of them in most parts of the UK so if you come across a reeling song like a grasshopper then it is either a grasshopper (or cricket) or a Grasshopper Warbler.
Here are three examples from across Europe, the first from Germany:
… and another from the Netherlands;
And this one from Cambridgeshire, UK;
They do sound like grasshoppers don’t they?
Did you hear them? I have to admit I was struggling to find recordings that I could hear. The Grasshopper Warbler is one of the species that as one ages, is likely to fall out of your list of detectable sounds (no wonder they are getting rarer!!). As are grasshoppers! Those lazy, hazy days of summer when you lay with a straw in your mouth looking at a bright blue sky and listening to Turtle Doves, Skylarks and the sound of grasshoppers in the meadow were real, and the meadows, the Turtle Doves and the Skylarks are all less numerous now, and so are the grasshoppers, but the grasshoppers are less rare than you think – you just can’t hear them as well. Well, join the club!
I knew I was missing grasshoppers about a decade ago (read about it here), and so I wondered whether I was missing Grasshopper Warblers too. But I’ve heard a few over recent years. And I always wondered how come I seemed to be able to hear recordings of them…but now it seems that I’m losing them too.
Which seems a good note, or missed note, on which to end this series of blog posts about bird song, except that there will be one more to round it off with a round number. Back soon!