The chilling melody of the siskin resounds through the frosty atmosphere in the countryside, according to Mark Cocker’s journal entry.
It is intriguing to consider that prior to the 19th century, siskins were limited to the pinewoods of northern Scotland. Even today, they are sporadically distributed and often only temporarily visit this county during winter.
This location was ideal for locating them. The Derwent flowed beneath the road bridge, shining like a black surface, before disappearing into the tangle of alder branches on either side of the banks. Siskins are attracted to alder seeds, and despite the loud noise of the river, I could hear their unique “be-Doo” calls. The best way to describe the small size of these birds, measuring about 12cm and weighing 12g, is that I could only spot them in the naked alders when they were in motion.
The group of birds circled around the top of the trees in a haphazard manner, hopping from branch to branch in search of seeds. It was difficult to accurately determine their quantity due to their constant movement. Additionally, whenever I tried to keep track, I could never find them again once they landed, resulting in an approximate count of only around fifteen. Based on this, I estimated that the total number may be around 20.
After that, they flew in a row to the alder next to it. I recorded the entire event. There were 56 birds. As expected, the tree they all flew to still appeared bare, just like the one before it. It seemed as though they had disappeared into the dull winter sky. However, I could still hear them, which was more than sufficient.
The peculiar name “siskin” comes from a German term, Erlenzeisig, where “erlen” refers to alder. However, the “zeisig” part likely originated from the older Czech word “čižek.” The English language struggles to capture the essence of the siskin’s sound, but the name in Middle European languages beautifully reflects the bird’s melodic prelude. It produces a strange wheezing noise that gradually builds into a chaotic sequence of liquid chirping notes.
The ultimate spectacle is when a male performs an entire aerial show. He resembles nothing more than a dark shadow leaping over the treetops, with slow and deep wing movements that are accentuated. His melodic song echoes through the chilly air like vibrant ribbons in the grasp of a dancer.