it is ironic that as my ability to hear diminishes with age (I realised recently that I could no longer hear a bat squeak, and couldn’t remember when I last was able to), I am becoming more interested in what I can hear, especially bird sounds. I find I am scanning with my ears as well as my eyes, and listening out for what I can recognise and what I can’t.

today, along the edge of the wood in the morning sun, a lark singing over the wheat field green and high on the right, on the left the wild bank of nettles, hemlock (the seeds are the most poisonous part of this),

Jack-by-the-hedge, hedge woundwort,

and the ditch along the wood hedge overhung by hawthorn, elder, ash, elm, alder, sycamore, hazel; deeper in the old plantation part of the wood, poplar, beech, oak, Scots pine and unseen birds.

chaffinch always the most common and repetitive, plink plink notes and a rolling chirrup, then a black cap’s clear voice, not really singing at full power – it is late in the breeding season now; a wren – or is it the black cap – scolding tchack tchack – in the distance a blackbird, some sweet tremolo notes from a robin; further along another wren’s high loud trilling.

here is a video with the most beautiful black cap song, quite like a nightingale in parts, then the thrush above the orchids in the grass.

round the corner the wood gives way to a field of rough grass at the edge of an old overgrown scrubby meadow; self-heal grows,

common spotted orchid, ragged robin, meadow sweet, meadow vetchling,

goat willow, sycamore, hazel, whitebeam, silver birch, and from the depths of the wood there is always a thrush doing his thing. in the foreground a chiff-chaff, and another chaffinch, but the willow warbler I heard here the day before yesterday was silent yesterday morning. they are less reliable performers; this year there are fewer of them around as well.

this afternoon I caught him on video; his song has a little chiff-chaff mimic sometimes – I have read of this but never heard it before.

in the green lane there are some mysterious voices and some familiar ones. there is always a yellow hammer, with his “little bit of bread and no cheeeeeeese” I think the first part of his song in fact sounds like a tiny hammer ringing out. there are chiff-chaffs in the oak trees, and chaffinches, and the bullfinches I saw in the winter on the other side of the village seem to have tucked themselves away down here in the tall blackthorn and hazel hedges; I hear their soft sad fluting “heu” calls on my morning walks. there is usually a white throat or two bouncing about in the hedgerow. then there is song that could be a black cap but it is scratchier than the full sound of the black cap in the wood and up by the cemetery – could it be a garden warbler? or is that just wishful thinking?

earlier in the season I saw a pair of willow warblers at the top of the lane, calling and flitting about between hedges and trees, but I never heard the song.

a new sound for me is the “whit whit whit” call of quail in the barley at dusk, just down the lane from us.

these little birds migrate from Africa via Malta’s gun-happy shores and so are becoming rarer. I am hoping to see one – about half the size of a partridge with longer wings in proportion to it’s body, and less colourful; the male has a distinctly striped head.

I am keeping my ears pinned back in the hope of hearing turtle doves purring in one of our little woods amongst the fields, but I would be very lucky. they are on the RSPB’s “red list” – Malta’s guns have done more damage to this species than to the quail.