It’s a dreadful confession for an aspiring naturalist, but I am not a morning person. I would love to say that I am up at first light revelling in the glories of nature, but I’m not, so when Jo from BBC Wildlife suggested it would be a good idea for Local Patch Reporters to write a blog abut National Dawn Chorus Day I was less than enthusiastic. Eventually I talked myself into it, and on the night before I dutifully asked David to show me how to operate the digital recorder he used with his bat detector.
I surprised myself (and the dog) by getting up at 4 am. After a strong cup of tea I felt half human and I set out for the wood at about 4.30, as the sky was just beginning to lighten. I decided to walk along the river to maximise otter spotting opportunities. The water looked like molten pewter, and it took me a while to realise that the strange, almost luminous, globes I could see floating just above the ground were dandelion clocks. By this time I was fully alert, with the heightened senses that come in the half light when you are watching and waiting, half praying for something wonderful to happen. When I disturbed a mallard duck and it flew noisily up out of the river it nearly scared the life out of me!
With the spell broken, I set off up the hill to the wood. As I approached I became aware of waves of song washing over me. At at distance it wasn’t possible to identify individual birds, but I did hear a male tawny owl, which surprised me as I didn’t expect them to be vocal this time of year. I did wonder if I was imagining things, but as I went through the kissing gate into the bottom of the wood I heard the unmistakable ke-vik ke-vik of a female. She was close and carried on calling for some time, I think I must have disturbed her because, at the risk of being anthropomorphic, she sounded very angry. Sadly she had stopped by the time I had finished setting up the recording equipment.
Once I had satisfied myself that everything was working I waited for a few minutes by the gate, and then walked slowly through the wood, trying not to get the microphone tangled in overhanging branches. I had no idea how the recording would turn out, but I knew that even if it was unusable I was glad I had made the effort to be there.
I switched the recorder off at the top of the steep path that leads out of the wood, down to an old stone stile and the fishing lakes beyond. I made my way cautiously down, and took the path between the lakes to the river. By this time the sky had lightened considerably and I could see the first rays of the sun appearing over the canopy of trees. I took some photographs, and leaned on a gate to watch the sunrise.
I have posted the recording I made unedited, I didn’t know where to start, and it is easy to dip in and out. It’s not perfect by any means, and there area some noises off, but for me it’s a beautiful record of a special morning in a very special place. Thank you Jo!
Click below for the link.