Trip reports

Dawn Chorus

Dawn Chorus
RSPB

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Eleven hardy souls set their alarm clocks so as to meet at Blackford Pond at 6am, and we were delighted that the number included Brian Murphy, a welcome visitor from Virginia. It was a chilly morning, but dry with no wind. Robins and Wrens a-plenty were singing as we started around the pond, and we heard a Little Grebe whinny though didn't spot the bird until our return at the end of the walk. But we immediately noticed a commotion on the small island where a pair of Mute Swans and two pairs of Coots were nesting: they seemed unconcerned, but the Gulls (Lesser Black-backed and Herring) were excited and noisy and we watched one of the latter pick up and carry in its bill a large cream-coloured egg! It seemed to put it down, then pick up another which it carried out over the water, dropping it just before returning to the island (presumably because of the weight, it did look enormous in the Gull's beak!) Too small for a Mute Swan's egg, and much larger than a Coot's, we concluded that these were eggs from one of the feral Greylags which seem to be increasing in numbers there.
After that spot of excitement we moved on, hearing our first Blackcap and finding a pair of Treecreepers before beginning to walk up the hill. Willow Warblers sang above us from the scrubby areas of low bushes and gorse, and we eventually had excellent views of a pair of Stock Doves which we had heard calling. These are an easily overlooked species among the many Wood Pigeons which were also present, but the song is so different. Great Tits called 'tea-cher, tea-cher' as they foraged around us, and a Blackbird sang its melodious morning song from the allotments. Further on we briefly picked out a Great Spotted Woodpecker by its looping flight, and then found a Chiffchaff giving its metronomic song from a tree above us. Descending to the Braid burn was quite chilly in the shade but Blackcaps were singing, and we also met various parties of young people who appeared to be returning from some overnight rave or the like. By the burn we had very good close-up views of both a male and female Blackcap, the latter not seen nearly as often as the male because he draws attention to himself by his song. This species appeared to be doing very well in the area.
We decided to climb up the hill to get into the sun which was now warming us, and found Chaffinches, Dunnocks, Blue Tits and a displaying Whitethroat up there, the latter giving short bursts of his rather scratchy song before taking to the air in display flight.
Moving down again we at last heard a Song Thrush at very close quarters, albeit we couldn't find him in the trees, and we had wonderful views of a pair of Long-tailed Tits feeding 4 fledged young. Well-feathered and capable of flying, the youngsters appeared quite happy for their parents to do the hard work - now where have I heard that before?
Mike Betts