Posted on 26 Comments

‘Le Merle Noir’ (Blackbird)


'Le Merle Noir' (Blackbird) - Cameos of Birdlife #10

After a period of silence, not hearing them since February, when a few warm days encouraged us out, the Blackbird have started to sing again.

early morning 
in greening woods
blackbird sing

Early May is the best time for birdsong which often starts well before dawn; when it’s neither night nor day yet there’s a tangible change in the air and an imperceptible, almost subliminal lightening of the sky ...

[...] “I was staying at a farmhouse in the New Forest, and on the side of the house where I slept there was a large arbor vitse in which a blackbird roosted every night on a level with my window. Now, every morning at half-past three this bird would begin to sing and go on repeating his song at short intervals for about half an hour. It was very silent at that time ; I could hear no other bird ; and the sound coming in at the open window from a distance of but five yards had such a marvellous beauty that I could have wished for no more blessed existence than to lie there, head on pillow, with the pale early light and the perfume of night-flowers in the room, listening to that divine sound.” [...]

Adventures with Birds - W H Hudson


Messiaen’s interpretation of a blackbird’s song - not what Hudson heard I’m sure - but it grows on you!

Featured Artist

The header painting - Hommage a Messiaen II 'Le Merle Noir' - is from an original oil painting by Keith Grant (born 1930), which formed part of an exhibition (Metamorphosis 2016) of his work at Chris Beetles Gallery.

The copyright rests with the artist - Keith Grant. I have sought his permission to use it in my post via Chris Beetles Gallery, but have yet to receive a reply.

Keith Grant is one of the greatest living British landscape painters. He has travelled extensively, and has confronted the elements in order to produce extraordinary, resonant images of nature, especially in the north. Recently, he has preferred to recollect his experiences in the tranquility of his studio in Norway, and work imaginatively to produce an exciting series of what he calls ‘autobiographical’ paintings.

Audio Citation

The recording by Lars Edenius is used here under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 license. This and many more can be found at - Xeno-Canto - a website dedicated to sharing bird sounds from all over the world.

Enjoy the Dawn Chorus ... but if, like me, you find many bird songs seem to sound much the same - Lev Parikian has put together a great, and somewhat humorous, guide here - British Bird Songs

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Josie Holford
May 2, 2021 12:54 am

From W.H. Auden on a Christmas in Wiltshire: “Thank you, Fog”

Outdoors a shapeless silence,
for even then birds whose blood
is brisk enough to bid them
abide here all the year round,
like the merle and the mavis,

May 2, 2021 12:36 pm

I love this post, Clive, except for the music of Messiaen, which has never grown on me! The painting by Keith Grant is stunning; I’d love it on my study wall but not at that price! 🤣 Yesterday in our tiny garden I watched 3 male blackbirds squabbling over 1 female! They have been in and out of the garden regularly recently and of course, today is May Day and they’ve not turned up, so far!

Reply to  Clive Bennett
May 2, 2021 12:50 pm

Maybe I should play the music in the garden! Would the Blackbirds listen in? I’ve played Wood Pigeon soundtracks and had real Wood Pigeons respond. They often sit in a big oak tree nearby, and I think my audio intervention confuses them 😊

Reply to  Clive Bennett
May 2, 2021 3:26 pm

Clive, being retired, every day is a bank holiday weekend! 😎🤣

Reply to  Ashley
May 2, 2021 5:40 pm

We have thrashers that sit on the window sill to listen when we play Bach inventions on the piano, and I have finches how gather outside the window when I play Bach cello suites! And when I take my kalimba into the garden, the birds sing with it and the mice come out to play! We once lived in a house with a cricket who loved the key of G and would chirp in tempo with me when I played a specific Caruli exercise!

Reply to  cathytea
May 3, 2021 12:23 pm

Hi Cathy, “thrashers”, I had to look that one up, the bird, not the music! A bit like our Song Thrush I think. Was it Bach or Caruli when playing the Kalimba? 🙃😊

Reply to  Ashley
May 3, 2021 5:43 pm

We do have thrushes! Thrashers are closely related to mockingbirds. I’m not sure if that genus is in UK. On Kalimba, I usually improvise, so I can jam with the birds!

Reply to  cathytea
May 3, 2021 5:49 pm

No mockingbirds here! I like the idea of jamming with the Byrds 🤣

Reply to  Clive Bennett
May 4, 2021 1:55 pm

😂 😂 🙏

May 2, 2021 12:39 pm

A real nice sound to wake up to. Thank you, my friend!

May 2, 2021 5:35 pm

What gorgeous art! And the haiku help me feel how glorious spring is across the northern hemisphere!

Andrea Stephenson
May 2, 2021 5:36 pm

I hear them singing here, they accompanied us yesterday when we went out at dawn and I see more of them foraging under the hedges in the park..

May 3, 2021 7:46 am

Blackbirds seem to have gone from my London garden but abound in Spain where they scare you in the undergrowth with the amount of noise they make. I always think it’s something bigger. ( think boar!) I love the French name. Forgotten the Spanish! Great post and the music.

Helen White
May 7, 2021 5:39 pm

The blackbird song is my eternal favourite, honeslty my most heavenly sound and I have a recording I sometimes play on loop to soothe the soul. Glad to say we have them on the rooftops this year…there were a few quiet years until now but our morning and evening song is back and I have one of their nests in sight from the garden (they come down to us for a good tug of worms from the lawn).