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After so many beautiful mornings in April the forecast for the 7th was for rain but what do forecasters know? Admittedly it was grey but remained fine. Another unknown for a dawn chorus walk is what time to start. In early May 4am should ensure catching the earliest songs but it is a bit of a deterrent for humans, so 5am seemed about right. However I had a fancy to hear the earliest riser so got up at 4, was outside at 4.15 but was already too late with a distant redstart singing, and a swallow twittering overhead (maybe the latter was woken up by the security light coming on).
Arriving at Lowna about 4.20 there was already a distant background chorus made up predominantly of blackbirds plus song thrush and a robin. For the next twenty minutes I listened intently and in addition heard wren, willow warbler, wood pigeon, curlew from the moor opposite and inevitably in shooting country, red legged partridge and pheasant. Other one-off sounds were a cuckoo, woodcock, tawny owl and the bark of a roe deer.
By 5am I had been joined by four more insomniacs. It was still only just light and we were intrigued by small flocks of birds flying high north up the dale. These were jackdaws, presumably adults still going out to feeding grounds in groups with young back in nests? We then set off for a walk north up the dale alongside the River Dove. We did not see many birds but the objective was to listen, and it was good to hear a redstart down by the beckside. We also listened intently to, but did not see, a black warbler which would have settled our discussions as to whether it was a blackcap or a garden warbler.
We stopped a while on a bridge discussing tongue in cheek whether we would see an otter but one sharp-eyed member did spot a dipper which was good to see. But we did not see a grey wagtail which was perhaps surprising. We went on further upstream where there have been pied flycatchers in the past but no luck. Also no luck on the way back when we thought we might have heard a distant wood warbler in a beech wood habitat that may have been very suitable before recent undergrowth clearance had taken place. Last but not least we heard a yaffling green woodpecker on our return to the car park, but typically it did not reveal itself although we were fairly sure which tree it was in.
Final thoughts from the organiser: very worthwhile to be up and about when the bird world wakes up and it was an enjoyable walk. However re location it might be better next time to meet in a true woodland habitat and away from stream noise, but we must always bear in mind that a group of cars arriving very early morning near human habitation may not be welcomed.
Other birds seen/heard were pied wagtail, jay, blue tit and great tit.
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