Up with the birds

Fresh off the back of the Woodland festival lectures was a chance for people to get out and visit the National Nature Reserve and see some of the wildlife we’d been talking about the day before. Billed as a Beginners guide to the Dawn chorus this was definitely a more gentle way to ease us into the joys of early morning birdsong with a relatively leisurely 7am start.

We were greeted by gentle sunshine easing through the trees and creating pools of delicate light all around us. There were fourteen of us in total and as we put our boots on we shared our thoughts on getting up early, no cars on the roads and having the day to ourselves

We met in Middle Trendlebere car park which has recently been resurfaced as part of our Moor than meets the eye improvement works. This was a perfect spot to get a feel for the whole reserve. Looking north into the Bovey Valley and towards Lustleigh Cleave and the site of last week’s archaeological dig we could hear a cuckoo and right on the edge of the car park a brightly coloured Yellow Hammer sang and displayed. John White, our guide from the RSPB (partners in Moor than meets the eye) told us how its call is traditionally said to sound like “a little bit of bread and no cheese” which I must confess I find difficult to visualise but it did get us thinking about how we might get some of the bird songs stuck in our heads.

A great spotted woodpecker drummed and a blackcap sang like a blackbird in a caffeine frenzy. We soon realised that the bird song was key and that seeing some of these birds was going to be very tricky with all the fresh green growth on the oaks.

Across the road we got lucky and saw our first pied flycatchers of the day, nesting in one of the nearby boxes. We were amazed to hear of their long journeys from Africa to nest here and to hear about the pioneering work of Malcolm Burgess and the RSPB in tracking these birds on their epic travels.

Deeper into the woods we heard a wood warbler- another African visitor with its distinctive call- sounding like a spinning coin rattling on a marble worktop and coming to rest. Minutes later we were rewarded with a brilliant view of it singing from the top of a nearby tree.

And then the woods went eerily quiet for a while until we reached the bird hide where we got good views of a siskin, a nuthatch, blue tits, great tits and marsh tits. Sadly there were no signs of the bullfinches that had been spotted earlier there by another birdwatcher.

And then it was time to head back to the cars and grab a late breakfast.

A big thank you to John and my fellow birdwatchers for the morning. What a fantastic way to start a day!

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