Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

A Little Bit of Bread and no Cheese

The song of the yellowhammer resonates with a quaint charm, often likened to ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese,’ a delightful call immortalised by Enid Blyton in her tales and verses. Males serenade the countryside with their melodies during spring and summer, adorning our open spaces. Resembling a canary in appearance, the males boast a striking yellow head with a brilliance akin to turmeric dust, while the females exhibit a softer, greenish-yellow hue. In flight, both reveal rust-colored rumps, earning them their ‘hammer’ moniker from the German for bunting.

Yellowhammer nests are of woven grass and can be found in hedge bottoms and shrubby thickets. Their eggs are adorned with delicate lines, earning them the rustic title ‘Writing Lark.’ These distinctive markings have also bestowed upon them a Welsh name, suggestive of their service to snakes, sparking a belief in their role as sentinels against such predators. To me, their unmistakable song is as quintessential to an English summer as strawberries and cream amidst Wimbledon rains. A little bit of bread and no cheese.

Legend has it that the yellowhammer’s melody stirred even the great composer Beethoven. Nature’s melodies purportedly inspired Beethoven, with some attributing various elements of his masterpieces to the yellowhammer’s song. While critics may debate whether the stirring opening bars of his Fifth Symphony or the gentler strains of his fourth Piano Concerto bear the yellowhammer’s influence, its impact on the dawn chorus remain undeniable.


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One response to “A Little Bit of Bread and no Cheese”

  1. John Richardson avatar

    We used to call them ‘Scribblers’ because of the way their eggs are marked and here in West Norfolk they are noisy early mornings when I walk our Jack Russell through the orchard. ATB, John

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