Monday, 2 May 2016

Chorus at Dawn

I heard a bird so sing, Whose music, to my thinking, pleased the king.
W. Shakespeare

30th May.  It’s a rare thing to see me up and about at 4:00am, but today I was, and Marie, Sam and I arrived at the Rising Sun Country Park at 4:45pm with Sam and I ready to lead the dawn chorus walk arranged by staff at the country park.  On arrival the song of Blackbirds dominated the air and a Chiffchaff could be heard in the distance.  Thankfully, despite it being circa 1C in temperature it was a dry fresh morning and it wasn’t long before a rising sun lit the Rising Sun CP.   All twenty-four participants which included some youngsters, twenty-five if you count a very well behaved dog which arrived, and everyone on time too, which in it’s self showed that participants were keen.  I’ve rarely led a walk when everyone turns up.  I know twenty-four participants for this type of walk seems a sizeable number and I also know just how noisy twenty-four folk can be on walks, but I have to say I was well impressed with the response of everyone who took part and who all appreciated the need for quietness.  I think the response reflected the fact that all were keen to listen and learn.  Well who would be up so early if not keen?    

There was quite a bit of birdsong as we departed from my home in the darkness and on arrival at the country park this was building up nicely.  Most of the birds heard today were common garden/park species but included the likes of Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.  Whether it was the newly arrived summer visitors or the song of Backbird, Song Thrush, Robin and Dunnock et al, it had to be remembered that listening intently to birdsong was a new experience for most if not all the participants.  Sam and I managed to get across some points of interest about many of the species, so I’m thinking that everyone will have taken away some new knowledge.  My own bird of the day was the Willow Tit seen and heard along the footpath behind Swallow Pond.  This is a species I’ve only seen once before in the Country Park.  Surprisingly we heard no Blackcap song and very little Robin song.

The calls of the likes of Little Grebe (one of two species of grebe seen today) and Water Rail added some real interest.  The latter species was seen by many of us as it wandered deeper into the reeds just as the light was beginning to improve and Lapwings called.

Our walk of two hours was taken slowly with several stops to focus attention on song and calls.  We didn’t attempt to climb the hill, but Sam did pick up the song of Skylark coming from that direction.  As we turned to make our way back to the centre the pace quickened with a few minds now focused upon those full English breakfasts awaiting us which were very nicely cooked by staff member Graham who I know well from previous events at the park.

After breakfast Sam and I had arranged a short presentation.  Short because we guessed that everyone would be tiring after such an early morning start.  The focus was again on bird song and all who participated did so in the light hearted manner in which we had intended.  I do think that it reinforced the learning that took place during the walk and I’m hopeful that many will have left at the end of our session determined to find out more about birds and also to use their ears as much as their eyes.

We had seen and/or heard at least forty bird species during our session(I won't list them all).  I don’t much enjoy group participation unless well organised and having a focus and an intention that everyone will leave having learned something.  I’m happy to say this event was very well organised and did have a focus which everyone kept to.  Everyone also respected the need for quietness and the group all kept close together rather than drifting off in various directions which so often happens.  It re-ignited my interest in being so involved with this type of event.  Samuel and myself would like to thank all the staff (especially Heather) at the Rising Sun Country Park who were involved in any way, all participants for their keenness and good humour and we'd like to give special thanks to who ever arranged for the fine weather after all the rain, snow and hail of late. 

Nearer home the Song Thrush continues to sing outside, as it has done for most of 2016.

It's good to listen!


  1. I'm pleased this went very well. It's good that you and Sam put on the presentation afterwards and that those who attended were keen.

  2. Takes me back a bit Brian, venue i attended my first Dawn Chorus, back in the mists of time.

    Abiding memory was the Yellowhammers, mind you i like the idea of a cooked breakfast afterwards. :):)

  3. Thanks guys. As I'm sure you know Brian you'd be quite hard pressed to find Yellowhammers in the CP now.