Norvic Philatelics - GB New Stamps and Special Postmarks
Songbirds - 4 May 2017
Sheet 1: Great Tit, Wren, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest,
Sheet 2: Blackcap, Song Thrush, Nightingale, Cuckoo, Yellowhammer
The stamps - all 1st Class
1st Class: Great Tit Parus major
Great tits are among the first birds to welcome the spring, and they do so
with varied songs that are strident, vigorous, monotonous and unmistakable.
The most common consists of loud, much-repeated syllables often transcribed
as ‘teacher-teacher-teacher’; it has also been compared to the sound of a
squeaky pump in action. Great tits like mature trees, parks and gardens and
thrive in suburbia. They are bold birds, their yellow bellies divided by a
black stripe. This is a bird that draws attention to itself.
Status: Increasing. Wintering grounds: Resident in the UK year
1st Class: Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
If you hear a song of astonishing volume from round about knee-high, chances
are that it’s a wren. It seems barely possible for so small a creature to
make such a din. The song is hard and dry and rattly, and it is usually
marked by a prolonged trill at the end, although when a recording of it is
slowed down, it becomes curiously melodic. Wrens like scrub and cover close
to the ground. When they come briefly into sight, their cocked tail is a
Status: Increasing, especially in Scotland. Wintering grounds:
Mostly resident in the UK, but some birds migrate to Continental Europe
1st Class: Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
The first willow warbler tends to announce the arrival of the high spring.
The warming-up is over: now for the real thing. These birds fly in from
western Africa to spend the summer with us – a prodigious journey for such a
small bird. The song is a soft, lisping descent down the scale, much
repeated with subtle variations. These are birds of scrubby unkempt
countryside rather than thick woods, and they mostly prefer places a little
wilder than towns or the intensive agricultural countryside.
Status: Declining in England. Wintering grounds: Birds winter in
sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in Ghana and Ivory Coast
1st Class: Goldcrest Regulus regulus
These are Britain’s smallest birds, and they have a thin little song to
match. Its most often heard from the top of a conifer tree: a pretty trickle
of golden notes that you could easily overlook. The notes are very high; as
birders grow old, they often lose the ability to hear goldcrests. But a
still day under a stand of conifers in the spring is very likely to bring
you a snatch of that pretty song, and a sighting of the bird, with its
flaming headdress, is always cheering.
Status: Increasing somewhat. Wintering grounds: British birds winter
in Britain, joined by some Scandinavian migrants
1s t Class: Skylark Alauda arvensis
Skylarks are essentially ground birds that make their living from open
spaces of grass, heath and arable fields, often remaining inconspicuous.
It’s only when the spell of spring is upon them that they take to the air
for a sustained period, and up they go – as if being wound up on an
invisible string. They are still widely distributed throughout the UK,
but the steep decline in their numbers is one of the many worrying problems
of the 21st-century countryside.
Status: Declining steeply. Wintering grounds: Birds winter in
Britain but many move locally.
1st Class: Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Here is a song of prolonged grace and tunefulness. Blackcaps have often been
claimed as Britain’s champion songsters, subtler and more melodic than
nightingales. They also travel much farther north than nightingales. Their
song is fruity and fluty but mixes in more challenging notes and phrases.
They like to sing from cover and are not often seen, but their song is
familiar in mature gardens and parks nationwide as well as in wilder places
– they are secret superstars.
Status: Increasing. Wintering grounds: Most British birds winter
in southern Europe and northern Africa, but increasing numbers of birds from
Germany and north eastern Europe winter in the UK
1st Class: Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Song thrushes are mad about repetition. They take a phrase, run through it
two or three times, then come up with another and repeat that. They like to
do so from a high, often exposed perch: the top of a mature tree is best,
but even a lamp post will do. They swing into action early in the year, on
fine days in February, and can be heard anywhere with trees and open spaces,
which makes parks and gardens as natural for them as
woodland edges. They sing on into July.
Status: Declining steeply. Wintering grounds: British bird’s
winter mostly at home, but some fly to northern France, Spain or Portugal,
and some from the Low Countries migrate to Britain for the winter
1st Class: Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
Nightingales don’t just sing at night; they also sing all day. It’s the most
strenuous option taken up by any songbird. And what a song: louder than
you’d believe possible, a crescendo of whistles, a deep throbbing drumming,
strange radiophonic sounds and snatches of pure melody. Nightingales sing
from deep cover, so don’t bother trying to see one: revel in that impossible
song, loudest from late April to mid-May.
Status: Declining steeply. Wintering grounds: Birds winter in
1st Class: Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
The two-syllable song was once known to everyone in the country but is now a
comparative rarity. Yet in the right places – often low-lying and damp – the
cuckoos arrive for a six-week frenzy of sound, from late April to the
beginning of June. Cuckoos are famous for laying their eggs in other birds’
nests, so the one essential of this lifestyle is for males to get into
contact with females. They need an uncomplicated song that carries for
Status: Declining steeply in England and Wales. Wintering grounds:
Birds winter in the African tropics; satellite-tagged British birds have
been traced to western African rainforest
1st Class: Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
The yellowhammer’s song was once the song of traditional farmland: this is a
hedge-loving bird singing a much-repeated phrase that is traditionally
written as ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’, although it’s more like
‘bread-bread-bread-bread cheeeeeese’. Changes in farming practices have led
to these birds’ decline, but they can still be heard in places where the
hedges and the food supply are right. The male, in a good light, stands out
with a blazing yellow head.
Status: Declining. Wintering grounds: Birds winter mostly in
Britain but some migrate to Continental Europe
The stamps were designed by Osborne Ross using illustrations by Italian
artist Federico Gemma. They are printed by International Security Printers
in lithography. Details of the stamp size and sheet arrangement have
not been supplied.
The stamps will be issued in two sheets with five se-tenant designs per
sheet, enabling customers to buy a vertical strip of five of any
Products issued, available from Royal Mail:
Set of 10 stamps (2 strips of 5) --
Strip of 5 from sheet 1 or sheet 2, or vertical strip of 5 of any single
First day cover --
Presentation pack -- Stamp
cards (set of 10)
Postmarks available for the day of
issue are shown on Royal Mail's Postmark Bulletin, download
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This page created 27 April 2017