May 202014

Our dawn chorus this year was an hour earlier than before starting at 5am from Northward Hill RSPB reserve.  The day started surprisingly chilly and from the viewpoint we had a lovely view of a hazy mist rising up over the scrapes.

Starting from the car park and the bird feeders we heard wren, robin,chaffinch, greenfinch and blackbird and soon had a pair of cuckoos – ‘cuckooing’ and ‘bubbling’ – initially out of sight but later on we saw the pair flying around.  A few whitethroats were singing but the chilly air seem to dampen their spirits – they were more vocal later on in fact!  On the scrape  avocets were feeding, lapwings displaying and redshanks and oystercatchers were calling.  A few herons were already making sorties out to the marshes.

We gradually made our way to  the orchard and then across to the lower part of the woods.  On the way we heard Cetti’s warbler, blackcap, chiff-chaff, sedge and reed warbler (after some ‘tuning in’).  Here we had prior permission to enter the sanctuary area.  We kept to the lower path – here  we heard  blue and great tit, great spotted woodpecker and then unmistakably, and drowning out most of the other birds, the raucous calls from the rookery.  They were almost deafening!  Woodpigeon and pheasant, more cuckoos, green woodpecker and finally nightingale – I was beginning to wonder…

Heronry at Northward Hill RSPB reserve

Heronry at Northward Hill RSPB reserve

In the end we heard five male nightingales singing.  From the heronry viewpoint, which is accessible from the public footpath, we were treated to the soundscape that must make Northward Hill unique – the combination of the  heronry, the rookery and a nightingale singing.  I tried to capture them in the recording below.  The rooks are unmistakable, the nightingale is singing alongside a robin and a wren and you can perhaps imagine a low ‘Frank’ from the herons.  Fantastic!  The views of the heronry were the best we have ever seen with some 25 herons clearly visible in the trees – what a strange sight they make.  Little egrets were flying in but apparently were nesting lower down in the woods and were not visible from where we were standing.

Can’t hear the recording or see the link? – try the website link:

On the way back we saw marsh harrier and back at the car park (of course!) a lesser whitethroat.


On a sadder note: we did not hear turtle dove during our dawn chorus, although one was heard later on in the day – where have they all gone?

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