Sunday, 1 May 2011

Dawn Chorus In May

Looking out over fields from the eastern end of Bogey Lane.  1 May 2011.
Looking out over fields from the eastern end of Bogey Lane. 
This was a stroll around the neighbourhood of High Elms Country Park, starting at 6 a.m. on the first of May and listening for birdsong. I have no photos of birds for this post. They are too small and move too fast for my little camera. But I do have some photos of where the birds were (and yes, I do realise that this sounds feeble, but see my bat walk post which has no photos at all).

The guide for this walk, Nick Hopkins of BCS, knows which birds he is hearing. This is not nearly as easy as it sounds. There are usually several birds calling at the same time, and you need to be able to focus on one of them and to be able to recognise all the calls you might hear. This takes a lot of practice. Nick has been working on it since he was 18.

We walked through woodlands and meadows, and along Bogey Lane to look over some farmland. The first photo shows some of the group looking out from one end of Bogey Lane. Just after I took this photo, a starling perched briefly on the back of that horse, carrying nesting material in its beak.

Usually on bird walks there is at least one person making a list of the species they have seen and counting up the numbers. I did not observe this phenomenon on this walk. It would not have been so relevant, as we heard more birds than we actually saw. I made a few notes, but not a complete list.

Ash tree with woodpecker holes at High Elms Country Park.  1 May 2011.
Ash tree with woodpecker holes at High Elms Country Park.
I do know that we heard, and often also saw, quite a few birds other than that starling, including song thrush, blackbird, robin, wren, great tit and blue tit, chiff-chaff, chaffinch, blackcap, whitethroat, yellowhammer, nightingale, jay, magpie, missel thrush, collared dove, falcon, possibly a sparrow hawk. Some of these are birds you might see in a garden, some are definitely not. I was particularly impressed by the wren, nearly the smallest British bird but with a loud and pleasant song.

As we walked I was also looking at the plants and insects; this is a chalky area and there are lots of plants that I don't see in gardens or in my immediate neighbourhood, such as bugle and yellow archangel.

The second photo shows an ash tree with a few woodpecker holes, probably the greater spotted woodpecker, which we neither saw nor heard. However, several of them live near me, and this year I could hear and see them from my front doorstep. Ash trees start to drop limbs when they are comparatively young (Nick told us) and so make good nesting trees for woodpeckers.

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