The Dawn Chorus Walk, 4.45am
There was a stillness in the air – no light, no sound, no wind, just an expectation as one of nature’s wondrous events was about to begin. A group of 26 had gathered on Worthy Down Lane very early in the morning to witness the crescendo of bird song that is known as the dawn chorus.
Almost as soon as we arrived a few skylarks started calling; I am told skylarks sing as they rise to the sky – the unbroken song definitely one of the most unmistakeable.
Led by bird-song expert Phil Jeffs, the group made its way onto The Watercress Way at Worthy Down Halt. As we walked off after a quick introduction, a robin started its chorus – a melodic, warble-like song; then followed a blackbird with its loud and fluted song, almost echoing in the heavy early-morning air.
Throughout the guided walk, Phil introduced each bird song, helping the group to recognise one species from another, which is not that easy when several birds are in song at the same time!
We made our way past the old platform; by now the day was beginning to break.
There was a rather dull cooo-cooing of a distant wood pigeon, then a song thrush with its very musical tune penetrated the air, repeating its sequence of notes three times.
Along with the song thrush, the soft, clear, warbling voice of the little wren was also in full song. And then the most superior melody of them all, the blackcap, which has a striking richness and beauty.
After pausing at a few more places to listen to the chorus and soak in the atmosphere, we stepped onto Alresford Drove.
Red sky on the horizon marked the rising sun.
The call of several rooks punctured the air, although too distant to drown our enjoyment.
After 50 metres or so, another blackcap was seen amongst the tree shrubbery, its song even more pure and delightful.
A chiffchaff was easily recognisable with its simple repetitious two-noted (sometimes just the one) song, then the high-pitched call of a little blue tit and the more cheerful melody of a chaffinch were heard.
Walking into the open a buzzard flew overhead, and on cutting through a crop field we had a great view to Cheesefoot Head some six or so miles away.
Then as we walked through a grassy meadow there were the metallic tones of a great tit, a sharp ‘tack tack’ alarm call of a whitethroat – I guess disturbed by our presence – and finally a repetitious low intensity call of a coal tit.
The whitethroat was another highlight of the morning, given they are becoming increasingly scarce in our countryside.
Amongst the other birds seen or heard were: kestrel, long-tailed tit, yellowhammer, goldfinch, greenfinch, house martin, and swallow; bizarrely, the number of birds recorded (26) equalled the number of attendees!
To finish, hot bacon baps and drinks were laid out waiting by the cars on our return.
A truly enjoyable and invigorating start to the day.
Bruce Graham, Trustee of The Watercress Way
List of Birds
Skylark, Robin, Blackbird, Wood pigeon, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Wren, Rook, Chiffchaff, Blue tit, Chaffinch, Pheasant, Magpie, Buzzard, Great tit, Collared dove, Whitethroat, Kestrel, Long-tailed tit, Coal tit, Common gull, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer, House Martin, Swallow, Greenfinch
Total = 26
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