“Chiff chaff chiff chaff chiff chaff…”
The unmistakable sound that assures us spring is here; the song of the Chiffchaff. The two notes of the song which give the bird its name; the high pitched ‘chiff’ and the lower pitched ‘chaff’, can be sung in a random order, so in fact you might here a Chaffchiff or a Chiffchaffchaff! The birds tend to sing for around 15 seconds then fall silent, or so it seems. At close range you may often hear a soft churring call filling in the gaps between the Chiffchaff’s songs.
Like many small migrant warblers, Chiffchaffs head south in the winter; most head to Africa. The Chiffchaff is however, one of the hardier of the migrant warbler species we have in the UK; it departs for Africa a few weeks later, and returns a few weeks earlier, than the other species. Some Chiffchaffs don’t fly as far south as Africa and see out in the winter in southern Europe. A few exceptionally hardy birds have even begun over wintering in the south of the UK!
Warblers are often viewed as the ultimate “little brown jobs”, having very few distinguishing physical features. Identifying a Willow Warbler from a Wood Warbler or a Chiffchaff by sight is not a task for the faint hearted! But just wait until they start to sing and all doubt fades away as the Chiffchaff charmingly announces its name high from a tree top “chaff chaff chiff chaff chaff chiff chiff chaff…” Well close enough!