Dawn chorus 2021 walk with Keith. Started at 04:15 with Woodcock “squeak and grunt”and the “konck” of a Pheasant. Then a couple more Woodcock roding overhead. After that, no more Woodcock but soon a Robin started singing, shortly joined by more of the same species.
A little later a Blackbird briefly sang a phrase or two, accompanied by full-on Song Thrush melody. A hesitant start by one lone Willow Warbler was soon added to by more joining in (we must have heard at least 30 singing males over the length of the whole walk). Then a Woodpigeon‘s “my-knee-hurts-Betty” a couple of times through the now increasing complexity of the mingled songs of a number of Robins, Willow Warbler and Wrens. A tree top buzzing got us looking up to confirm what I thought, Lesser Redpolls. Small flocks flitted from conifer tree to conifer tree taking the seeds as they went.
Then the tuneless calls of a Jay and Crow were heard (though to be fair Jays can make attractive guttural vocalisations to their partners, this one didn’t on this occasion). The distinct “chiffchaff” of, you’ve guessed it, the Chiffchaff came next, then further on, from the top of a tree, a Garden Warbler (one of my favorite songsters), warbled away. Great Tits and Blue Tits don’t sing, but almost always form the background to a woodland walk, and they didn’t disappoint us today.
As we approached a woodland clearing the cheery song of a Chaffinch greeted us, and the sharp “kick” of a Greater Woodpecker echoed through the wood. Then another bird with a woodboring bill, the Nuthatch. A Magpie was seen, though did not make a noise, while, from a farm or big garden, a distant Cockerel “Cocka-doodle-doo’d”. From trees just outside the nature reserve I heard one, or was it two? Yellowhammers with their “little-bit-of-bread-and-no-
From a low treetop on the reserve, a Common Whitethroat flung itself into the air and and gave it’s scratchy song, then landed in a nearby birch sapling. By now we were coming out of the woods onto the open moor, so Meadow Pipits were about and a Tree Pipit put on a display for us; lovely. At the top of the hill, we watched a female Cuckoo fly low over the heathland, where she landed, perhaps to avoid being mobbed by the six or so Meadow Pipits that were following her, or perhaps to inspect a nest where she might lay her eggs?
Up on top we listened to and watched Skylarks display and heard Curlew too. At least two Wheatears were alternately perching and hopping off a dry-stone-wall, but no singing was heard. Some of the resident Red Deer looked up as we passed them by on the other side of the wall. Nearby a male Stonechat imitated stones banging together from it’s heathery perch; and a Red Grouse or two were heard. Back into the woodland and we had to check out that the “beep….. beep….beep” was a Bullfinch, and not something else (it sounded a bit too strong). Being where there are some conifer trees it was no surprise to hear a couple of Goldcrests making their high-pitched reel. A more tuneful Blackcap sang for us, and then we saw a couple of Long-tailed Tits, but they were busy searching for food, so no vocalisations. Beyond the a scattering of self-sown Silver or Downy Birches, in a rushy area we heard a Snipe “drum” and “chip”.
Turning to go back to the car park a pair of Linnets were beside the path in front of us. And, then after a fruitless search and listen for Wood Warblers (maybe next time?) we finished off by listening to a Song Thrush that has included phrases of Curlew and Buzzard in its repertoire. It nearly had us fooled anyway! Back home by 9am. 34 bird species in total.