Taken from the Wear Valley Mercury (2009)
BIRDMAN IS REALLY A BIT OF A TWEETIE
Stephen Ansbro has talent – a very unusual talent. The lorry driver from Hamsterley can, with uncanny accuracy,
mimic the songs of British garden birds.
When he demonstrates his skill, which he dubs ‘tweeting’, the sound is indistinguishable from the real thing.
What comes forth is a sound that should not, truth be told, be produced by a human being.
Despite seeing where the sound is coming from, the instinct is to look round for a bird in the room.
Stephen, known because of his talent as the Weardale Warbler, said this reaction is not unusual.
“I go into shops and whistle like a bird, and people think there is a bird in there,” he said.
“When I whistle in a café, people look round and round like baby blue tits in a nest waiting to be fed.”
Always a keen birdwatcher, Stephen discovered his talent as a young boy.
“I have always been interested in British garden birds, and when I was at school, I started off doing sparrows and it progressed from there,” said Stephen.
“Everybody who hears me say that I have a talent, and say ‘why don’t you do something with it?’”
Stephen has, so far unsuccessfully (2009), tried to bring his tweeting to a larger audience.
A telephone call to a radio station was dismissed as a hoax, and an application to the TV show Britain’s Got Talent was met with an unenthusiastic response.
“They said that if I didn’t do anything visual then I couldn’t go on,” said Stephen.
“But I thought even Simon Cowell would have beeen impressed.”
It may not have been good enough for Simon Cowell, but the Weardale Warbler is good enough to convince birds themselves.
“When I’m chirping, the birds chirp back,” he said.
“They think another bird is in their territory but when they don’t find another bird, it confuses them.”
He can now mimic 25 British Garden birds, and hopes eventually to be able to take off all 79 species.
“I just listen to them and imitate them and it works,” said Stephen.
“All bird songs are nice in their own right. The wren for a little bird has a lovely song and the chaffinch has a nice warbling song,” he said.
“The one that people ask me to do most is the Robin, which has one of the most recognised songs.”
Stephen now hopes to share his talents at schools, colleges and community groups like the WI's.
“I would like to go round schools and groups and do talks and get people interested in birds,” he said.
“I would also eventually like to put a CD recording together. I've been on the local radio stations doing my 'tweeting'.”
In the meantime, Stephen will carry on tweeting.
“I’m always tweeting,” he said.
“If I’m walking down the street I’m tweeting, and if someone irritates me, instead of shouting or swearing, I tweet.
“I tweet from dusk ‘til dawn.”