Tuesday, 5 May 2020

International Dawn Chorus Day on Cleaver Heath

What better way could I use up my ‘exercise walk’ on International Dawn Chorus Day (first Sunday in May) than bring it forward quite a few hours to 04.20 and ensure the annual Cleaver & Heswall Dales Dawn Chorus Walk went ahead, albeit with no extra participants.

The forecast was for clear and still conditions - not always the case - so I didn’t really have an excuse to stay in bed. Of course I didn’t see a single human being at that hour so no need for even the slightest form of ‘social distancing’. First out of the traps this year were two male Tawny Owls at 4.25am, closely followed by the usual gang in order: Robin, Blackbird, Pheasant, Wren, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush and so on.

Before I retired back to bed, I had heard or seen 23 species which is roundabout what we usually get when conditions are good. The Tawny Owls regularly feature, calling just before dawn. It’s a shame they have not yet taken advantage of our specially installed owl box in Cleaver. More surprising calls were from Shelduck in private land adjacent to the Dales. We have heard/seen these before. We know they nest there and also in the land next to Dungeon Woods where there are suitable rabbit burrows. The estuary is a long way to walk for ducklings. However, they do cover distances – I was once held up on the A540 while a mother with 9 ducklings crossed the dual carriageway.

The lockdown arrangements this year meant I had fewer pairs of ears to help me hear things but, on the plus side, the ‘group’ was really quiet and I was able to try recording the chorus with my smart phone. If you click the 'play' button below you might be able to hear one of my attempts. It lasts about a minute and is dominated by a nearby Blackcap as pictured above with a Blue Tit in sunnier conditions. Can you detect what else is contributing? I am already looking forward to doing a proper walk next year with a live audience this time.

Alan Irving
Volunteer Reserve Warden for Cleaver Heath Nature Reserve

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