Wrens performed their solos with great gusto for our special dawn chorus walk round Reffley Spring Wood on Sunday, May 7th. And a stock dove proved a surprisingly confiding photographic subject.
Once in the wood, we settled ourselves on a log intending to eat some of our packed breakfast. Very soon after, a loud burst of wren song with its characteristic trilling, came from close-by. This was repeated several times and similar samples were heard frequently around the wood during our two-hour stay. And a few weeks ago, I was concerned I hadn’t heard any wren song in the wood – maybe I hadn’t gone early enough before!
The stock dove arrived towards the end of the walk and allowed us to stand and watch it and take several photos. I was surprised because when they started to come to our garden to feed they were very wary and would fly off if they even saw someone go to the window. They aren’t so nervy when they visit nowadays. I had heard them singing in the wood before and earlier this year. did see one here.
This was the second time my husband and I had braved the early morning to have a wander round our nearest patch of woodland to mark an International Dawn Chorus Day. The event has happened every year on the first Sunday in May since 1984. This time, we entered the wood around 6.45am and many of the choristers were already in full voice.
Every now and again we stopped to try and record some of the birdsong on my tablet and also by using BirdUp, an app which aims to tell you which bird you are listening to. This app does offer samples of birdsong and a selection of different habitats. This did become gradually trickier to do because of the chilly early morning air, although, luckily, the northerly wind did not really get a grip until later. On the whole, I was pleased with my recordings when I checked them out at home.
A song thrush wandered across the path in front of us at one stage and we often heard one singing. Among the other birds we heard were blackbirds, robins, wood pigeons, collared doves, jackdaws, great and blue tits, with the chiff chaff and chaffinch tuning in later. There were even a couple of brief contributions from a tawny owl near the end and rooks kept up a constant chattering from around their nests.
The singing provides us with a joyous show, but for the birds themselves, it’s about establishing a territory, finding a mate and producing the next generation. As the spring moves steadily onwards, migrants such as chiff chaffs and other warblers, which have wintered overseas, come to share the habitats with our resident birds and the dawn chorus performance grows richer and probably reaches its peak during May.
Besides birds, we were entertained by muntjacs and squirrels. In one area of the 8.4 acre ancient wood, the wild garlic plants tickled our sense of smell. And, alongside one of the pathways, we picked up a fallen twig topped by an attractive bunch of seeds, which we later discovered came from a wych elm.
Before going to the wood, we had sampled the dawn chorus around our home. When the alarm went at 4.30am, the house was surrounded by the sound of blackbird song. Opening the kitchen window a little later, we heard greenfinches, collared doves, dunnocks and then wood pigeons.
The weather was kinder for our expedition this time, remaining dry but chilly. Having your alarm go off early gives you a bit of a jolt, but it’s great to do this kind of thing once in a while because immersing yourself in nature really sets you up for the day.