Friday 1 January 2016

The insomniac's friend

According to the RSPB website, and excluding owls, the UK hosts just 3 true nocturnal bird species which sing at night: Corncrake, Nightjar and Nightingale. Unless you are an exceedingly fortunate insomniac, none of these will be in your back garden, ready to comfort you with song in the darkest hours. Reed and Sedge Warblers can also sing profusely through the night but, again, not likely to be in your back garden. So, who is the insomniac’s friend? Who inhabits gardens throughout the land? It is, of course, the Robin. Of all the common species, it’s the little redbreast that sings most frequently and most extensively during the night.

In its pursuit of tasty insects, the Robin is used to foraging in dim light and, even under artificial street lights, well into the night. It is one of the first to start up the dawn chorus and one of the last to stop singing at the day’s end. Robins also hold a territory all year round and so sing all year round. They are ever present, ever busy and ever ready to sing, even when woken in the night!

Anyone who has endured long periods of insomnia will know that in the darkness and the quiet, the minutes can feel like hours and you’re often helplessly and completely alone. It is, after all, the dead of night. But, inject into that the song of a Robin and you’re no longer alone, no longer engulfed in silence and darkness. You have a companion. And, there’s an intimacy too, as you realise that it’s likely that your ears alone are hearing his voice. Two night’s ago, as I lay awake at 1am, this little chap (photographed below) piped up. He sang for an hour below my bedroom window before, I suspect, settling back into the shelter of a nearby bush. I like to think that together we drifted off to sleep.

The nighttime singer, on his favourite perch, photographed (& filmed) from the sitting room

Wishing you all a very happy new year and hoping that insomniacs everywhere have a Robin in their garden!


  1. Happy New Year Lucy, Hope you have a great 2016 with lots of wonderful wildlife to see and photograph - and hear!

  2. It's just gone 01:45am and my fellow insomniac has begun his nighttime song...

  3. Yes the robin's started their night time singing in december, there seems to be two or three birds near me, and one was foraging on the pavement at 2am New Years day, as I returned home from a party! Was quite happily digging around at the base of a fence as I watched from a few metres away.

  4. They really are busy birds aren't they Si. Hope the party was good!

  5. Happy New Year Lucy,great post,very interesting.


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