The swifts are back! They have been screeching loudly as they swerve and swoop over our heads. Little Owl and I went on an early morning outing with our local Wildlife Trust on Sunday to hear the dawn chorus. It was a real trauma dragging ourselves out of bed at 4am I can tell you, but totally worth it. We zipped up our body warmers and slipped out into the dark, silent streets. Little Owl was thrilled to be out on such an early morning escapade. She was in charge of the torch and its beam bobbed about merrily as she skipped along the pavement.
We met up with the group down by the river, the dawn chorus already in full sway. I have to say, it made an enormous difference listening to the chorus with a knowledgeable guide. Some of you will know that I have tried to learn different bird songs in the past and not got very far. So it was much easier this time when one of the walk leaders pointed in the air, just as the given bird we were listening for began to sing. We heard a chiffchaff, blackbirds, wrens, a robin, magpies, blue tits, a great tit, various warblers (he lost me there), black caps, and a song thrush. I could just about pick out the thin high-pitched song of a goldcrest but it was right at the top of my hearing range. A few of the older members of the group couldn’t hear it at all but Little Owl got it easily. Did you know that the dawn chorus is not a global phenomenon but only happens at our temperate latitude? I so often think of wildlife wonders happening in far off places (with a commentary by David Attenborough), that it’s easy to forget what wonders exist right here.
As the sun rose above the trees and warmed the backs of a group of gulls larking around on the weir, we headed back to Devon Wildlife Trust’s headquarters at a renovated watermill for coffee and croissants. It was a lovely end to a fabulous trip. The walk was led by volunteers so a big thank you to them. It’s wonderful that people are happy to share their expertise with others for free. And I think I might actually remember some of the songs this time!