the stonechats called in spring

jacdac

Senior Member
Lebanese
The observatory and outbuildings were surrounded by a high whitewashed wall. He walked through the painted gates and he was out on the island. He followed the track to the stile over the drystone wall where the stonechats called in spring, and climbed into the paddock. Mushrooms grew there, skylark and meadow pipit bred there.
source: come death and high water by Ann Cleeves

I’m not sure how to interpret the phrase: the stonechats called in spring. What is your interpretation?

thank you.
 
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes, the place where the stonechats sang in Spring. Although this has to refer to where they gathered, called refers to the singing, not the gathering.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, the place where the stonechats sang in Spring. Although this has to refer to where they gathered, called refers to the singing, not the gathering.
    I'm with you here, Andy.

    The spring is mating and nesting time for stonechats and they become highly possessive of territory at that time of year. The calls are to tell other birds, and anyone else, to go away.

    This is not talking about 'call', to drop in, maybe for a cup of tea.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Stonechats, as those of us lucky enough to see and hear them know, don't really "sing"; they make a distinctive rasping noise, like the sound of a few pebbles being hit together. I expect if writer was talking about a more tuneful bird then she might have used "sang".
    They are apparently seen year round.
    They do migrate to some extent, but I very rarely see them at other times of year. Like the skylarks also mentioned, they are shy birds and only really make themselves seen and heard in the spring and early summer.

    Did anyone else notice the writer uses "skylark" and "meadow pipit" in the singular?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Stonechats, as those of us lucky enough to see and hear them know, don't really "sing"; they make a distinctive rasping noise, like the sound of a few pebbles being hit together. I expect if writer was talking about a more tuneful bird then she might have used "sang".
    They do migrate to some extent, but I very rarely see them at other times of year. Like the skylarks also mentioned, they are shy birds and only really make themselves seen and heard in the spring and early summer.

    Did anyone else notice the writer uses "skylark" and "meadow pipit" in the singular?
    Yes, it's almost like the old colonial naturalists' singular.

    I have a friend who goes to Africa and sends me a post card saying things like 'Saw three rhinoceros and two giraffe yesterday'. He got quite cross when I replied with 'Saw three sparrow this morning'.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I do some birdwatching and serious "birders" make a distinction between to call and to sing.

    A call is a distinctive phrase indicative of the situation the bird finds itself in. There are alarm calls, contact calls, help calls, etc.
    A song is a variety of notes strung together. The purpose seems to be (i) self-advertisement as a mate (ii) establishing dominance over a territory.

    As a generality - all birds call, not all birds sing.
     
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