Dawn Chorus 1 May 2022

Five brave individuals turned up at 4 am on the first of May for the club’s annual dawn chorus walk – a rather low turnout – but some people may have been deterred by the forecast of rain later in the morning. As it turned out though, the weather held and we had a good, albeit chilly walk. [But not as cold as it can be!]

We started in the car park at St Kenelm’s church at Minster Lovell with our first bird being the ubiquitous robin, which was also first in previous years; we could also hear pheasant alarm calls and we soon started hearing tawny and little owls. Whilst passing through the ruins we heard a moorhen on the pond and mallard on the river.

As we proceeded into the field we started to pick up other birds such as carrion crow, wood pigeon, long tailed tit and song thrush. As we crossed over the white bridge (which is anything but) we collected rook, great tit, wren, jackdaw and blackcap.

We carefully picked our way through the fir trees and entered the meadow by the red barn where we could see the barn owl box but no sign of the barn owl. It was now after 5 am, a thin grey light had appeared and the birds were waking up.

At a quarter past five we had our first blackbird, which was rather late, and then the chiffchaff’s familiar call was heard. Alison Weaver called out to us to look back, and on doing so we were able to watch a barn owl coursing across the meadow, looking quite ghostly in the half light.

As we walked on we could hear numerous birds in the reedy field to our left. Here we had whitethroat, reed bunting, sedge warbler, coal tit, chaffinch and skylark; flying were magpie, black-headed gulls, greater spotted woodpecker, buzzard and a cormorant.

It was now past 6 am and things were moving on apace as we passed through Maggots Grove (a maggot pie being the old name for a magpie, suggests its origin). As we crossed the road towards the Windrush valley we heard skylark above the field of rapeseed, and moving to the lane at the bottom, we paused in Roger and Yvonne Townsends’ field, where we heard lots more whitethroat and blackcaps.

On joining Dry lane (the bottom part of which was called Watery lane in my parents’ day as it was very prone to flooding) at Crawley we saw our first red kite, swallow and greenfinch. The bridge was disappointing as no grey wagtails were showing, nor kingfisher, but in the village we collected collared dove, starling and house sparrow.

On walking out of the village towards Minster Lovell we heard our first cuckoo at ten to seven. We stopped at the top of Farm Lane for a few minutes to enjoy the view over the Windrush Valley. A few yards on we heard the cries of a swift and watched it flying. Nearby, a goldfinch and red legged partridge were added and along the lane we had a dunnock.

Approaching the ruins we saw a kestrel and feral pigeons were also around the ruins.

Wild Clary at Minster Lovell, 1 May 2022

Walking back to the cars I said ‘well, we have equalled last year’s number of birds’. At this point a green woodpecker yaffled loudly and, as we met Sue and John by the cars, we had a jay and a house martin. We were very pleased to find some wild clary just coming into flower on the verge just opposite the car park.

By then it was five past eight and we all dispersed to get a good breakfast [But perhaps not as good as the ‘full Hailey’ that some members will remember.] and, I suspect, some sleep.

The total count was 45 species, which is one of our better counts for this walk.

The species list can be found here.

Adrian State 15 May 2022