National Dawn Chorus Day


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.

Dawn Chorus in Towerhouse Wood 4th May 2014

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