Songbird Signs

March 13, 2023

The day we picked up the keys to our new home late last year, we received a loud message from nature. We drove up to the house and saw a Song thrush lying on the road, as cold as ice, at the entrance to our driveway.

Many years ago, I would have assumed this was a negative sign that all was not well. But over the years, I have learned how to read messages in nature. I know to take notice when birds fall out of the sky in my path at significant moments.

When birds fall out of the sky

Nature sightings such as this encounter have greatly influenced my life since I stepped on the shamanic path. You may have already heard my story about how a Blackbird colliding with my car led me to end my career and jump into the unknown as a full-time shamanic practitioner.

I was a sustainability consultant and had a business advising public sector organisations and corporations on sustainability. It was a tough job in many ways, and I had wanted out for the best part of a decade. There was a huge clash between their ethics and mine and I just didn’t fit in, as hard as I tried. I had been searching for a way out for many years, and at times it was agonising knowing that I wanted to leave but not finding the courage to step away.

Then a bird fell out of the sky in front of me.

I was driving to a business development meeting when a female Blackbird hit my windscreen and died immediately on impact. I was upset in thinking that had I not decided to go on that journey that day, the Blackbird would still be alive. It was confusing, as I was on my way to help another organisation be gentler on the Earth, which was a good thing right? Yet I had killed a bird on my journey there. Ignoring the signs and the uncomfortable feeling in my body I carried on as normal, wrote the proposal for my potential new client and went on with life, experiencing the same knocks, the same highs, daily, and just thinking this is how it just needs to be.

Then, just a few weeks later, I picked up and read Snowy Tower by Dr Martin Shaw. It tells the story of one of our great myths, Parzival. Early on, Parzival’s mother hides her son in the forest to protect him from the same fate his father met, fighting in battle. As Parzival grows into a young man, upon a chance meeting with three knights from King Arthur’s Round Table, he starts to get the urge to become a knight himself, as his father was. His mother, in her anguish, instructs her woodsmen to strangle the birds in the trees, and they fall to the floor.

It was this story, this analogy, and the bird falling out of the sky on my path when I thought I was doing the right thing, which was the tipping point. Over the next week other things happened. Blackbird visited our bird table for the first time, and then came back again and again. I pulled the Blackbird card out of my animal spirit guide deck twice. Finally, I told my first story ‘Finding Your Battle Cry’, which is about stepping up and finding your voice, and it all became too much. I realised it was time to turn my back on the corporations and walk out into the unknown.

Blackbird message

We have an animal spirit guide library in our Mystery School made up of over 120 animals. Here we explain the natural history of each species and the underlying message it holds for us. The message of Blackbird is vigilance. Blackbirds bright beak in contrast to their black body holds a strong symbolism that they are messengers from the Otherworld. They reveal hidden truths, bringing the unconscious to the conscious.

In nature, the Blackbird has a particular call that is important for many species of mammal and bird, and that is their alarm call. This is a very loud, repetitive call with a real urgency. You will hear a Blackbird sounding it's alarm call it as it flies away from danger and if you look around animals within earshot look up startled towards the sound of the call.

When Blackbird comes into someone’s life it is most likely sending out an alarm call to watch out for something that they aren't necessarily aware of yet in their conscious minds.

Also, as with all songbirds, there is a strong message about a person finding their voice, and standing in their truth. It is a sign to take stock of what they are choosing to do in the world. Questions to ask include: are you being true to yourself? Are you focusing on what you truly need to be focusing on, or is there something in the Otherworld that needs to come through your voice into the conscious world?

Since that first encounter, Blackbird has been my spirit guide. I go on shamanic journeys for guidance from Blackbird, and I also have sightings out in nature.

Blackbirds are not normally animals that come close, unlike Robins. So, when I passed twelve Blackbirds on a recent sunrise walk, all who remained stationary, some even flying for a closer look, I knew there was a message for me. This time I took the message from the first Blackbird I saw on that walk, who was perched on a gate looking out to Ingleborough Mountain and watching the morning sky turn pink and purple. His wings were drooped, resting, perched on the gate. He glanced over his shoulder at me and then turned his head back to watch the sunrise. His message was ‘play’. A few minutes later I lent on another gate further up the hill to watch the sun rise behind Ingleborough.

I have had other special encounters with Blackbird over the years at significant moments. On my wilderness vigil, where I spent four days and four nights alone in the forest, Blackbird was the first animal to come close to me. It happened within the first day, which is unusual as often it takes the animals longer to come so close. Each morning the Blackbird returned, hopping right alongside me as I lay on the ground. I struggled with a few things on that vigil, but never loneliness.

Blackbird also came to me last year during a tough time in my life as Jason suddenly had to step up the care for his family. His father was diagnosed with advanced stages of dementia and moved to a care home, leaving Jason to take care of the needs of his ageing mother and disabled brother. I was returning from a walk on Anglezarke Moor behind our home and stopped to photograph the bluebells. However, as I reached for my camera, something caught my attention to the right of me. When I turned my head, I saw it was a male blackbird. As I fumbled to get my camera out, I was sure he would fly off. But it didn't. So I took several photos and then decided to inch away to avoid further disturbing him.

As I walked on, I heard quiet birdsong from behind me. I looked back, and the Blackbird was singing ever-so-gently. It was as if he was singing to me. And he kept singing. I stood there for a good while as he sang his soft song. This moment meant so much to me. It was an important message that we were being looked after. I was overcome by emotion. Around the same time, Jason also encountered a Blackbird on the lane going into Chorley, where he had to slow right down as it sat in the middle of the road blocking his way. When we both got home, we shared our blackbird stories and knew there was a particular message held in them. As I mentioned earlier, Blackbird is a bird that normally flies away urgently when encountering humans, sounding the alarm call. It is an important sign for us when a Blackbird stays stationary or comes closer.

Song thrush speak

Last year another bird fell out of the sky in front of me. This was a Song thrush, like the one we were to find by our driveway when we moved to our new home the following year.

This time it was on a weekend storytelling course in Dartmoor with the West Country School of Myth. This is the third time we took part in this programme. Those stories seep into my subconscious and work on my sinews. Transformation during or following a course such as Stalking the Rebel Soul is inevitable.

On the Saturday morning I took the short walk from our tent to the campervan, so I could cook breakfast. And there, lying right in front of the van door, was a dead Song thrush. These are the words I wrote during a five-minute creative writing practice, just an hour or so later about the experience of finding him:

“When a bird falls out of the sky: this is a moment to signify a great transition. It is to be noticed. So, what of the young Thrush lying in my path this morning. Cold as night. Eyelids half-closed. Fresh feathers. Still as the moment before dawn. What message does this voice of the woodland hold for me? His song will no longer ride the summer breeze. Perhaps he is a message bearer to take my own voice out into the world now.”

At that time, I was just moments away from launching my first book. It had been four years in the making since I came up with the idea to write it. A number of things had come up to slow the process down. But in truth, the underlying delay in pressing the button was due to my lack of confidence. I had been silencing myself. I was afraid of putting myself out there in the world both as an author and because of the stories I share within the book.

Thrush told me it was time for these to come into the light. The message of Thrush in our animal spirit guide library in our Mystery School is voice. Thrushes are known for their song. They sing for much of the year, and a male may have a repertoire of more than one hundred phrases. In our library, we say this about Thrush:

“Thrush is telling you that it is time to find your voice: your expression in the world. What is your story? What have you come to share? In a way, what are you for? Thrush is dedicated to sharing its voice in the world, creating sweet music and projecting this out from the treetops so that it can be heard far and wide. It also doesn’t let adverse weather conditions hold it back, happily singing through the wind and rain. Take inspiration from Thrush in finding your voice and projecting this out regardless of the ‘imperfect’ conditions. Rather than waiting for the ‘right’ time, take the bull by the horns and work to overcome any blocks that stand in your way, including your own inner blocks.”

So, the message from Thrush was loud and clear. It was time. I launched my book, The Path to Forgotten Freedom: Healing Unresolved Ancestral Trauma, a few months later at Samhain, the time of honouring the ancestors.

Songbirds and the Spring Equinox

As we move further into spring, I notice the dawn chorus getting louder each week as more birds join in and raise their voices to sing the sun up. There is a special energy about this time of year. If I had to commit, spring is my favourite season. The months ahead are full of potential and I look to the year stretched out in front of me with excitement. Soon I will feel the warmth on my skin and can once again lie in meadows in the daytime and sleep out in my little red van through the warm nights.

The songbirds are good animals to work with during the springtime. They hold the message of using our voice, finding our motivation, moving through resistance and stepping out into the spring with gusto.

Do you have something you are looking to achieve this year? If you do, the Songbirds can help you move towards your dreams.

I have a project I haven’t managed to begin for the past three years. I keep on getting distracted, but I haven’t forgotten about it. It is going to take some organising and a lot of focus and time amongst all the other things I need to do. So, this Spring Equinox, I am going to tune in with the songbirds to breathe life into this project.

My goal is to sleep out at the places where my ancestors lived seven generations back so that I can watch my dreams. This is why I originally bought my little red van, so I could sleep out in the streets and remain undetected. During these trips away, I want to research the impact of land enclosures on my ancestors that were alive during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Who knows, maybe another book will emerge from this like it did last time when I followed my desires and line of enquiry.

I am going to spend time this Spring Equinox tuning in with the songbirds and setting myself up for the best chance of success.

Do you have something that you want to throw your energy into? A deep desire that you want to achieve? What are your hopes for this year? How are you setting yourself up to give yourself the best shot of achieving them? How might you work with the Spring Equinox energies and sow those seeds for the year ahead?

Spring into Life

With this in mind, we are holding a day-long retreat online this coming Saturday, 18th March, Spring into Life. Perhaps you have already booked?

The day's purpose is to create space to focus on the year ahead, move through any resistance and create a plan for the coming months.

If you want to achieve something this year, this is the day to come to. Give yourself the space to focus on what needs to be done and set your intentions.

The replay will be ready by 10 am on Sunday. So, if you can't come on the day, you can still join in the following days or weeks at a time that works for you.

We would love to share this day with you. Here is the link to find out more.

Mystery School members receive a 20 per cent discount. If you would like to find out more about our Mystery School, click here.

Also, if you have enjoyed this blog we have several free courses that you might be interested in working through.

Additional resources

In our Seeking Guidance From Animal Spirit Guides course, we explain how to begin to understand the messages animals have for us. Here we focus on the topic of seeking support during emotional times and go into detail about four animals that can help us: Bear, Salmon, Bat and Woodpecker. These animals have supported many people in our community over recent years as we began working with them at the start of the pandemic. Our hope is that you, too, can draw on their healing messages and energy, as we have. Here is the link for you to access the course.

In our Working with the Wheel of the Year course, we teach how to work with the Celtic wheel of the year to align your life with the Earth's natural cycles. Here we explain how our ancestor's lives were aligned with the seasons and describe how you can benefit from following the wheel of the year. We also share eight easy practices you can adopt as you work with the rhythms of nature, and there is a bonus downloadable e-book that will guide you in this practice. Click here to access the course.

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Natural Beauty in north Lancashire, England.

Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

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  1. The Thrush– I have recently had a Thrush showup, or perhaps a couple at my current residence of 25 years. In all my years of living here I have never had one around until this year 2024. He is intense and oh so beautiful in song. The intriguing and mysterious part about his appearance is, I've lived in peace on the property for two decades until that all changed when some highly disrespectful and obtuse slipshods moved into the immediate vicinity as neighbors five years ago. It was a pure rooster hell for the first three of those years, dogs yapping/ barking almost all the time, lots of other animals and stenches involved will ill managed, sloppy lifestyles and personalities. So to say the past five years have been hell is a huge understatement.

    Those roosters of the first three years have been gone thanks to battles I won which I will not disclose here. Then there's the last two years, still more than it's fair share of annoyance/ rudeness / disrespect on so many levels. I will not get into the details but spiritual measures were wrought and the last leg of negative energy was rid, to awaken to the new sounds of this song bird for the first time ever in over 25 years. The dogs which were barking non-stop have stopped, the last roosters which were snuck back in here again are gone..all that happened 'over night', as they say. The following morning, this songbird appeared on my property, singing to his heart's content and that was two weeks ago. The songs haven't stopped since. It's been nothing but peace!! – the Thrush appeared and all the foolishness from the disrespectfuls dried up, coinciding with the very appearance of this Thrush. After five years of dealing with slipshods, this is marvelous.

    I also have been on this voyage in another location as well, with connections to ancestry from generations ago. I kid you not, part of that voyage has been met with another Thrush, albeit an entirely different part of the US, along this same path / timeline. To say the Thrush has gotten ALL of my attention would be a HUGE understatement. The message couldn't be more clear. I enjoyed your post and thank you for sharing.

    1. Wow, what a story Chris. It sounds like one heck of five years and how amazing that Thrush has come at the end in this way. Just beautiful to read. And I am made up for you that you have your peace once again. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you, Nicola. I love your online retreats and did join Spring Into Life, using the recording the following day. It was and continues to be very thought-provoking. Two weeks later, after a hard day's work in the garden, I was just sitting, quiet and content. Blackbird, high in a tree, sang to me for about half an hour a complex story that felt to me to be full of devotion and caring and which has stayed with me. He has never come close up, but has often sung to me for a few moments while I am hanging out the washing – how does he know? I really value yours and Jason's story and your interpretation. I am learning to find my voice and live my truth more fully and am taking much more notice of Blackbird. I am so grateful for the lights you shine.

    1. Such a beautiful story. Heartwarming. Thankful for your experience and that the natural world gives us messages.

  3. Magical. You have such a lovely way of expressing yourself. It allows the reader's subconscious to draw in the words and picture everything so clearly.

  4. Beautiful words. I loved reading this blog and was drawn in to notice Blackbird particularly. One has become so friendly in my garden over winter. I suspected it was because I feed the birds, but I have done that for over 30 years and this is my first friendly blackbird. He’s a bright male and will stay 4ft away to regard me, as I regard him. Such wonderful connected moments. Thank you Nicola for your fascinating words.

    1. I have loved hearing about your friendly Blackbird. That is so unusual and feels really special. Thank you for your kind words about my blog Helen 🙂

  5. 💚 Beautiful, Nicola, as always. I too have a special love for Blackbird…Food for thought or rather, contemplation😌🌳😊

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