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Dawn Chorus at Woolhampton – 7 May 2017

A hard core of 7 members braved the 5am rendezvous for a dawn chorus walk at the Rowbarge, Woolhampton, led by Ken and Sarah White. The cool dawn and overcast sky were challenging, but the rewards were great. For birds the spring is all about the breeding season, and the breeding seasons is all about male song birds singing to defend their claimed territory on the one hand AND to advertise their presence to potential mates on the other. The car park tally was a good start; over and above the mass chorus came the clear piping notes of a Song Thrush contrasted by the mellow improvising tones of a Blackbird. A bat was hunting over the water by the nearby bridge.

We set off to circumnavigate the nearby gravel pit (called by fishermen the Rowney Predator Lake), passing varied marginal vegetation including Phragmites reedbeds, willow & alder trees, patches of scrub and the lush surrounds of the river Kennet. We collectively identified 34 species in the 1.5 hour walk, 29 of them by song or call. The soft “3-blind-mice” of a Reed Bunting was drowned out by the scratchy scribble of a newly arrived & excited Whitethroat. Trilling Wrens accompanied us nearly all the way round, rhythmical monotones from Reed Warblers filled the reedy patches, but the string of singing highlights included velvety & liquid bursts from Blackcap, babbling Garden Warblers and outrageous “knock-you-over-sideways” deliveries from Cetti’s Warbler. A distant Cuckoo was detected by some, and the visual delights included pairs of Pochards and Oystercatchers, not to forget the proud Canada Geese with their large brood of very young goslings.

The icing on the cake however had to be the svelte and gorgeous Grey Wagtail that was waiting for us right at the end of the walk near the canal lock gates; no sign of life in the Rowbarge so I was glad that we had got up an extra 10 minutes early to do some flasks for the final treat and justified reward of a steaming hot cuppa and biscuits for everyone there.

Report by Ken White

Picture by Ken White

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