Sound recordings Wildlife

International Dawn Chorus Day at Rutland Water


6 May 2013

rutland water

International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 5 May was a worldwide celebration to welcome back birds from their long migration. To mark this occasion, I took part in a guided bird walk led by Tim Mackrill at Rutland Water’s Lyndon Visitor Centre to capture the sound of the dawn chorus at 5.30am!

I arrived early (very unlike me), to test my Tascam DR-680 recording device and DPA 4060 microphones, using the A-B stereo technique with a coat hanger recommended by the BBC’s Chris Watson. But then realised I was at the wrong location (damn it!), although this gave me a chance to record the sound of the dawn chorus in the car park of the Anglian Birdwatching Centre for a while without any interruptions.

This was the dawn chorus captured at 5am at the Anglian Birdwatching Centre, it features Wood Pigeons, Collared Doves, Carrion Crows, Garden Warblers, Wrens, Goldfinches, Blackbirds, Great tits, Blue tits, Dunnocks, Robins, Jackdaws, Chaffinches and flying above; Canadian Geese and Shelducks… and possibly more! I cant take credit for the information on birds (below), although I know a bit, my knowledge is not as vast as the RSPB website!

As always these recordings sound better through headphones than your computer/laptop speakers.

Listen to: Dawn chorus at the Anglian Birdwatching Centre at 5am, 10.27 mins

Listen to: Song Thrush, 2.09 mins. This bird repeats its loud song phrases 5 – 6 times, then sings a new phrase. It likes to eat snails which it breaks into by smashing them against a stone with a flick of the head. Unfortunately their numbers are declining, especially on farmland making it a Red List species.

Listen to: Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiff Chaff and Dunnock, 1.42 mins. The Garden Warbler is a very plain warbler with no distinguishing features. Its song is similar to that of a blackcap, but has longer mellow phrases. The Willow warbler are small birds with grey-green backs, a yellow tinged chest and a stripe above the eye. Their population has undergone a moderate decline over the past 25 years making them an Amber List species. The Chiff Chaff is a small olive-brown warbler, with a distinctive tail-wagging movement. Its an easy bird to remember because it sings its own name. The Dunnock is a quiet small brown and grey bird, often seen on its own. When two rival males come together they become animated with lots of wing-flicking and loud calling.

Listen to: Willow Warbler, Wren, Wood Pigeon, Chaffinch, Great Tit and Green Woodpecker, 1.20. See above for information on the Willow WarblerThe Wren is a tiny brown bird. It is dumpy, almost rounded, with quite long legs and toes, very short round wings and a short, narrow tail. For such a small bird it has a remarkably loud voice. The Wood Pigeon (as you probably already know!) is the UK’s largest and commonest pigeon, it is largely grey with a white neck patch and white wing patches. Its cooing call is a familiar sound in woodlands as is the loud clatter of its wings when it flies away. The Chaffinch is the most colourful of the UK’s finches. It does not feed openly on bird feeders – but prefers to hop about under the bird table or under the hedge. The Great Tit is green and yellow with a striking glossy black head with white cheeks and a distinctive two-syllable song. The Green Woodpecker has a heavy-looking body, short tail and a strong, long bill. It is green on its upperparts with a paler belly, bright yellow rump and red on the top of its head. They have an undulating flight and a loud, laughing call.

Listen to: Dunnock, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Shelduck, 1.17 mins. See above for information on the Dunnock and Willow Warbler. The Sedge Warbler is a small, quite plump, warbler with a striking broad creamy stripe above its eye. It is a summer visitor, and winters in Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. Its song is a noisy, rambling. The Shelduck is a big, colourful duck, both sexes have a dark green head and neck, a chestnut belly stripe and a red bill. On this recording Tim tells us about how Shelducks like to nest in rabbit burrows!

Listen to: Willow Warbler, Wood Pigeon, Blackcap and Robin, 4.35 mins. See above for information on the Willow Warbler and Wood Pigeon. The Blackcap is a distinctive greyish warbler, the male has a black cap, and the female a chestnut one. Its fluting song has earned it the name ‘northern nightingale’. The Robin is the UK’s favourite bird – with its bright red breast it is familar throughout the year. Robins sing nearly all year round, and despite their cute appearance, they are aggressively territorial. On this recording Tim tells us about the Willow Warbler’s migration from Africa and how Robins are affected by street lights, and asks was it a Nightingale or a Robin that inspired the song “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square?”

Lucy Stevens is an artist whose environmental soundscapes and visual art investigates the relationship between humanity and nature.

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