Day 2 on the challenge and I feel a bit like a marathon runner (actually I’ve no idea what that feels like and probably never will!) just getting going and setting my pace so I don’t run out of steam. So with that in mind, Day 2’s activity was none too strenuous and involved dragging my lazy bones only as far as the garden. I did however have to get up BEFORE the crack of dawn, so still feel deserving of some kind of medal.
So the reason for getting up at such an ungodly hour – to listen to the dawn chorus. This is something that always seemed such a lovely thing to do (memories of Bill Oddie enthusing about it on past TV programmes perhaps), but somehow I’ve never quite achieved – the lure of the duvet has always been too strong. So 30 Days Wild felt like the time to finally do it.
Unusually, I was organised. A digital dictation machine was borrowed well in advance (couldn’t think how else to record it as my phone is from the dark ages) and a few practice runs attempted – not at ridiculous o’clock in the morning of course, but in more civilised early evenings. We live in a pretty quiet street, but you don’t realise how much noise there actually is until you start trying to record something relatively quiet like bird song. First attempts resulted in 30 seconds of a neighbour hammering something. Next one a dog barked incessantly. Third one sounded as if the Hell’s Angels had decided to do wheelies down our street. Fourth attempt was going fine until Chris came outside and announced we’d be having beans for tea – all duly recorded (I might have kept that recording if he’d said we were having something that sounded a bit more glamorous and foodie than beans!) At least they proved the sound recording worked.
Sunrise this morning was supposed to be about 5am here in Malvern. According to the RSPB website the chorus begins about an hour before sunrise, so by 4am I was up and out and sitting in splendid isolation in the garden (for some reason Chris declined to get up and join me!) Last night I’d been stressing a bit that I wouldn’t be able to identify the birds from their songs. I listened to various bird recordings online to try and memorise them – with little success. But as I got up this morning, I thought to hell with that – it’s way too early in the day to be stressing about anything, much better to sit back and just enjoy the birds as they come. I already pretty much know what birds we get in the garden and it seemed unlikely that a nightingale would suddenly start singing without me realising it!
Initially it seemed our garden was silent. I could hear birds singing in the distance but it was too faint to hear properly, let alone record. First noise that would have been audible on tape was a plane going over about 04:05 am – I didn’t even really think we were on a flightpath – just shows what you can notice when you’re alone in your garden in the dark! Gradually the bird song seemed to move closer – like a Mexican wave of tweeting washing over Malvern.
About 5 minutes later, the blackbird started up. I can say this with confidence as I could see him on top of next door’s roof. It was still pretty much dark, but he was singing his little socks off – and really loud. I know I’ve heard blackbirds sing before but I’ve never consciously sat and just listened to one – beautiful but definitely loud. Here’s a brief recording of him.
Once the blackbird had got going, more birds seemed to join in, although I couldn’t identify anything specific from the mix. I would have expected perhaps robins and the wren – if anyone can confirm whether these are on the next couple of audio clips, that would be great. Of course the main thing you can still hear over-riding everything is the blackbird.
About 04:30 the bottom of the garden was filled with lots of cheaping voices – the sparrows had woken up. We are fortunate to have a lot of House Sparrows in the garden and they clearly all woke up together.
As I’m not normally up in the garden in the semi-gloom of pre-dawn, it had never occurred to me that bees might be up at that time too. I had always sort of assumed that they didn’t stir until it got warmer. But while wandering the garden with my microphone, I became aware of lots of buzzing around the raspberry canes – sure enough about half a dozen Tree Bumblebees were making the most of an early breakfast. They are just about audible on this clip.
The robin appeared on the fence about 04:45 and looked at me as if to ask “what on earth are you doing up at this time and does this mean you’re going to feed me?” (and I did).
The bigger birds were the last to get up. Just after I’d seen the Robin, I could hear the woodpigeons faintly in the distance. Just before 5am they finally came close enough to record, although their gentle cooing was rudely interrupted by a Jackdaw squawking.
As everyone in the garden now seemed to be up, I decided it was time for me to go back to bed. It was actually very relaxing sitting in the garden for an hour that early (once my body had got over the shock of being up!) With none of the usual modern day distractions, it was like some kind of sensory relaxation therapy to just sit and listen to the (mainly) natural sounds all around me. I might even be tempted to do it again!
It’s Day 2 as well of my 30 Lazy Garden Weeds – this time the Primrose. It is a native plant and must surely be one of Britain’s most loved wildflowers and I doubt anyone weeds these out. Our garden in spring is a mass of these yellow clusters and the bees love them. They provide a much needed early season nectar source for the bees and they brighten up the garden no end. Even Shakespeare wrote about them in Midsummer Night’s Dream “And in the wood, where often you and I
Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie…”