Apr 242015

Our dawn chorus walk this year started from the Cliffe village car park one hour before sunrise and it was dark, very dark. Ten hardy souls had set alarm clocks early and as we walked out of the village and onto a dim Pickles Way the usual pre-dawn suspects were already singing: blackbird, wren and robin. Then came a sudden burst from a Cetti’s warbler, a great tit calling “teacher-teacher” and faintly in the distant the unmistakable “cuckoo-cuckoo”.

Sunrise over Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve

Sunrise over Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve


By the time we stood under the radar it was as if the lights had been switched on. The large colony of black-headed gulls were making themselves heard and then from a nearby bush the staccato entree of a nightingale. Spring truly had arrived! We listened for several minutes to its lovely melodic song but the bird itself remained resolutely out-of-sight!

Our walk took us out through the middle of the pools and along this path we must have heard more than half a dozen nightingales; one so close and very loud that I managed to record the following track and even caught sight of the songster for a few seconds before it moved deeper into the bush. (NB if you are reading this via the Feedburner email you’ll need to go to the nightingales-and-cuckoo-in-dawn-chorus post on the website if you wish to hear the recording).

Other contributors to the dawn chorus were:
chiff-chaff, blackcap, song thrush, blue tit, long-tailed tit, goldfinch, linnet, house sparrow, chaffinch, skylark, meadow pipit, reed bunting, oystercatcher, lapwing, redshank.

We came back via the black barn (supposedly to catch up with the cuckoo we had heard earlier) and on the way were treated to three glorious sightings:
a pair of whimbrel feeding in a field (identified first by their size, bill and striped crown) and then, as it was a dawn chorus, by their characteristic piping call,
then three pairs of newly arrived wheatears (one of my personal favourites),
and finally (as if on cue) a water vole appeared in the moat, swam towards the far bank, ran along the bank and then swam back straight towards us! I was too captivated to take any photos of it, but here is a digi-scoped picture of one of the wheatears – a fine female in this case.

Female northern wheatear

Female northern wheatear

Other species seen included a large flock of avocet, shelduck, gadwall, tucked duck, shoveller, pochard, great-crested grebe, grey heron, little egret, magpie, wood pigeon, sparrowhawk, starling, and a quick fly pass of hirundines – most likely swallows — but they were off somewhere else and did not pause in their journey to allow a good view.

We eventually did hear the cuckoo again when we were approaching the village (as I had predicted) -it was now behind us, having probably watched us walk by!

A great dawn chorus, well worth the very early start with more spring arrivals than I had dared hoped for. If you’ve not tried it – give it a go, I attach the map of the route we took.dawn_chorus_route_around_Cliffe_Pools

Paul, Group Leader

  One Response to “Nightingales and cuckoo in dawn chorus”

Comments (1)
  1. 10 hardy souls indeed. Our first dawn chorus and what a great experience. To hear the Cuckoo and Nightingales was such a treat. Such an array of beautiful songs from various species was worth getting up early for. Many thanks to Paul for organising the trip and the others that attended.
    Great photos too btw