THE rich fluty song of the blackcap is a striking feature of woodland edges in Clackmannanshire at this time of year and it is easy to see why this small migratory warbler is sometimes dubbed the ‘northern nightingale’.

It is nigh-on impossible to give a true insight into the beauty of the song through the written word, but suffice to say the melody of the blackcap has a volume and richness that few other birds can match.

It is delivered with such startling boldness; there is no gentle warm up or soft introductory tones, just an incredible short blast of high intensity music.

Recently arrived from their southern wintering grounds, blackcaps are now getting down to the business of building their nests deep in bramble thickets and nettle patches, or sometimes in ivy against walls.

The nest is a neat little affair, gently slung by ‘basket handles’ between plant stems and the cup lined with fine grass and hair; the rim decorated with cobwebs and cocoons.

Look out too for whitethroats in the Wee County, an energetic little warbler with a scratchy song that the male often delivers during a short aerial courtship display.

Another warbler making it presence felt at the moment is the willow warbler. It too has a marvellous song, but its rising and descending tune is much softer than that of the blackcap.

The American naturalist John Burroughs eloquently described the song as a ‘tender delicious warble’ that ‘expires upon the air in a gentle murmur’.

Similar in appearance to the willow warbler is the chiffchaff, which can be easily identified by its repetitive two-syllable ‘chiff-chaff’ call.

Chiffchaffs have become commoner in Clackmannanshire in recent years, and I sometimes wonder whether their increasing presence may mean they are out-competing willow warblers.