Trip reports

Dawn Chorus Walk - Tudeley Woods RSPB Reserve

Male blackcap in hawthorn bush
Blackcap: RSPB Images

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Even a 4:45am start was not early enough to hear the first bird break the silence. When we arrived at the car park, robin and blackbird were already singing. A tawny owl brought smiles to faces, even at this early hour, and a distant cuckoo was heard by most people. What a promising start.

As the minutes passed and we walked into the woodland, the birdsong crescendoed. The ever-helpful chiffchaff calling its own name, the tiny wren with its disproportionately loud song and the coughing sound of a pheasant contributed to the melodious performance. A single song thrush repeated its phrases to help us remember his song and blue tits and great tits proffered their tunes. A bat flew overhead, hoovering up his supper before heading to roost. The meadow on Brakey Bank looked beautiful in the first light of day and we paused to take it all in.

A green woodpecker was heard, yaffling as if laughing at us for getting up so early. The harsh call of a nuthatch carried through the trees and the woodpigeons chipped in with chants for their favourite football team: 'U-ni-ted, U-ni-ted.' With careful listening, the delicate song of goldcrest could be heard. Both the 'chack' call and the drumming sound of great spotted woodpecker was picked up and soon a blackcap added to the musical melee. Was that a treecreeper too? Just one willow warbler, and a reluctant performer at that, made itself heard. Chaffinches were less shy.

As the light levels rose, so the number of birds singing decreased. A walk to the heathland ridge brought us a whitethroat who gladly made himself visible. But the recently reported woodlarks failed to materialise. A pair of bullfinches and some goldfinches were seen, their colours all the more vibrant in the early light.

The long slog back up the hill made the breakfast refreshments all the more welcome. One final bird, the mistle thrush, provided the final encore for our dawn chorus event.