20 May 2017, This cuckoo has a favourite songpost in dead branches at the top of an oak in Snipe Meadow. Normally I’m prone to chasing cuckoos around from one spot to another, but my ankle’s dodgy at the moment so I stayed put and let him come back to me. Unexpected pleasures of standing still in one place for a long time were hearing the trill of a female cuckoo nearby and a brief burst of another male answering from across the meadow. Also that wonderful sense of anticipation as cuckoo sounds get rapidly closer while “he warbles as he flies”.
13 May 2017, Glapthorn this morning – at last the the elusive nightingale shows himself!
11 May 2017, Cuckoo in the sunset last night in Southwick Forest. He flies towards the camera then veers off left and overhead, making the characteristic chuckling noise often heard during flight. He then settles invisibly in a stand of trees immediately behind, then about 8 seconds from the end breaks cover from the top of a tree towards the right and flies off again with another chuckle.
8 May 2017, Grey Wagtail on Cotterstock Lock this morning. A beautiful little bird with fascinating movements – always brings a smile to my face.
5 May 2017, I’ve just heard my first Swift of the year above the market place – such a wild, thrilling sound.
4 May 2017, When you try to photograph birds in the wild more often than not you just get a shot of the branch where they were sitting because they’ve taken off in the time it takes to press the shutter. This green woodpecker went round the back of a telegraph pole and I clicked just as it reappeared.
3 May 2017, There’s only one nightingale singing regularly in Glapthorn Cow Pasture this year, but what a voice! There was a five minute passage around 8.30 last night when the air went thin. Beautiful warbles, repeated whistling notes that started quiet and built to a crescendo….. it was all there.
There was at least one other male close by – they make aggressive noises that are usually called “growling” (though it’s more akin to the sound of a comb across a fingernail) – but they seemed stunned into silence as far as singing went.
Great to hear a cuckoo calling further up the valley too.
27 April 2017, Grasshopper Warbler at Snipes Meadow. This is a fairly uncommon bird nowadays and it’s unusual to see it out in the open like this. It’s counter-intuitive that a bird makes a sound like an insect, but here’s the proof!
27 April 2017, The cormorant tree.
25 April 2017, Heron on the side weir – nothing remotely cuddly about this fella!
24 April 2017, More Marvellous Mister Mandarin. A week ago I saw a duck take off from the water near here and fly high into a large tree. That seemed odd behaviour, and from a long way away there was a reddish tinge about it. Now it all adds up – Mandarins nest in holes in trees and the female just pushes the chicks out to fall to the ground when they’re ready.. Should be fun watching the chicks on the river – fingers crossed they get that far!
23 April 2017, Sunrise at Southwick Forest on St George’s Day, 23rd April 2017. Sounds of Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Nightingale, Rooks and a distant Cuckoo near the start (easiest to hear around 35 seconds in).
21 April 2017, Very relaxed pair of Mandarin ducks on a jetty near Cotterstock Lock.
20 April 2017,
Male nightingales travel ahead of the females to stake out their territories before pairing up. Potential mates fly by night and the males sing to attract them. I’ve just been up to Southwick at 11pm to see if anything was happening.
As soon as I got to the church I could hear the distant fizzle of a nightingale on the edge of the forest ridge several hundred yards away, and another answering it further west up the valley.
They’ll be singing every night until they’ve paired up. If they don’t manage that that they’ll be pouring out their lonely hearts right through until the breeding season ends in early June!
20 April 2017, Treecreeper at Glapthorn this morning.
19 April 2017, Hurrah! A nightingale flew into Glapthorn last night and was singing from 6 – 7.30 this morning. What a glorious sound – and what a relief!
18 April 2017, Two minutes of slow video from Southwick Wood first thing this morning. Later on I heard a few cuckoo calls coming across the valley.
17 April 2017, Still no nightingales at Glapthorn. We used to reckon they’d arrive about the 18th, though they’ve been much earlier in the last few years. There’s plenty of fine birdsong up there, including a Grasshopper Warbler last night. But it’s as if the chorus, all fine singers in their own right, are all warmed up and the soloist has still to take the stage.
11 April 2017, Wren in Snipes Meadow
10 April 2017, Fingers firmly crossed, but it’s around the time we might expect nightingales to arrive overnight at Glapthorn Cow Pastures. None were singing first thing this morning, but plenty of sublime blackcaps, a garden warbler and the first willow warblers had just arrived and were weaving their soft, spinning calls into the woodland soundscape.
9 April 2017, I went to Glapthorn at 5.00 this morning to record the dawn chorus – I’ll post some of that up later. Here’s a slow video taken at about 7.15 when it’d all calmed down a bit. The sun’s coming through the trees and there’s the occasional bit of woodpecker percussion.
8 April 2017, Morning moorhen
6 April 2017, Wren by the river this morning.
4 April 2017, I’ve just got back from several days looking after my mother down south and went up at dusk to sit in the woods at Glapthorn. As I entered the woods the outline of a fox trotted across a path alongside and disappeared into the trees. Later I looked along a ride at right angles to the path and there he was again. Then I sat on a stump for a long time with my eyes closed listening to the song thrushes and circling rooks and a few early tawny hoots. When I opened my eyes there he was, stock still and looking straight at me. We held each others’ stares for a few moments then he decided I was neither dangerous nor particularly interesting, shrugged his haunches and took off with a swish of his gorgeous red brush. The question arises – who was watching whom?
30 March 2017, Grey wagtail by Cotterstock millpond this morning. I heard the chirps of an otter in a side weir on the way back and caught a brief glimpse of it swimming away before it went underwater.
24 March 2017, Heard my first blackcap of the year near Snipes Meadow this morning.
12 March 2017, Lovely fruity raven calls near the path to Woodnewton in Southwick forest this morning. Midwife toads tinkling along South Road. Frogs purring in our back garden. Spring is here!
4 February 2017, I went for a walk this morning that normally takes one hour – it took three. That’s because I kept stopping to take in the sights, smells and sounds of one of those rare days when you just know there’s been a turning point between seasons.
There may be more bad weather to come but the days are getting longer and the sun is getting.stronger. It’s as if the earth is taking a deeply relaxed exhale of breath.
There were woodpeckers and fieldfares, chaffinches and songthrushes, a distant mistle thrush calling, a lapwing, a pair of grey wagtails, and was that the faint fizzle of a skylark three fields away? Clouds were feathered against a pale blue sky. Even the sound of traffic had a soft edge.
27 January 2017, For a few days now local chaffinches have been taking the first couple of steps down their ladder of song – today they’re careering all the way to the bottom! Hurrah!
23 January 2017, Contrasting natural colours yesterday – in the morning there was brilliant red on the face of a nearby goldfinch, and bullfinches perched like rosy pears in a distant tree. At dusk I went to Glapthorn with a sleeping bag for warmth and sat by the pond looking up through the trees. Rooks circled against the greys and purples of the sky, then stars appeared as it darkened to deep blue black.
1 January 2017, Woke up to the sound of a red kite circling over the garden. Opened a book at random and read “The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention”. Looking forward to a year of noticing, and appreciating, the small stuff.
17 December 2016, I went to Barnwell park at about 4pm as the mist rose and the light was fading. In a Beech on the edge of the park there was a loud twitteration of goldfinches. The tree still had some leaves but the birds were silhouetted against the sky, hopping from twig to twig in a state of high excitement. This was going on for at least 15 minutes while I tried to work out why they were using so much energy with a cold night ahead – but I wasn’t the only one watching. A large bird came crashing into the tree and away again with the classic banking profile of a sparrow hawk. The finches scattered then flew around as a flock at least 100 strong in high and widening circles – then they were gone.
The question is, were they aware of the hawk all along and gathering for mutual protection? Or were they in some sort of murmuration/bonding ritual which then caught the hawk’s attention? Either way it was an amazing thing to witness.
30 November 2016, Beautiful frosty morning, bright silvery song thrushes singing all around. Wren rattling in the chainlink, buzzard swooping low towards a hedgerow. Starlings startling sheep as they flit among their legs in search of food.
29 October 2016, I sat completely still by the pond in the woods at Glapthorn Cow Pasture for a couple of hours yesterday as late afternoon turned to dusk. It was opposite a tangle of tree roots where birds and small animals come down to drink and wash themselves. There was a goldcrest, robin and bluetits, and a squirrel stretched out headfirst and vertical to reach the water. A greater spotted woodpecker hopped backwards down a series of trunks and branches. Thrushes, wrens and bullfinches called nearby, gradually getting quieter. Then as light fell a tawny owl gave two hoots and flock of rooks came cackling across the fields towards their rookery in the ash trees, wheeling for several minutes before roosting and falling quiet.
28 November 2016, There was a murmuration of lapwings over the river this morning. Several hundred birds, with the shapes changing from black to white as they turned and the sun caught their breast feathers.
4 October 2016, I was in Cambridge Botanical gardens yesterday and sheltered from a rain shower under a large Copper Beech. Sitting with my back against the trunk, listening to the drops on the leaves, I was amazed at how dry the area around me was. There was a full 15 minutes of heavy rain before a few drops started appearing on my jacket. So, as there were a lot of other deciduous trees close by, and all of them had name labels, I went from tree to tree to see which was best for shelter. All the beeches were good, as were lime and ash. Oak, birch and sycamore were rubbish. If you’re rained on in foreign parts make a beeline for Turkish Hazel or Caucasian Wing-Nut (genuine name). As I was leaving I noticed the path was bone dry beneath the branches of a Yew – looking forward to checking out the evergreens on my next rainy visit…..
2 October 2016, I was sitting on the millpond bridge at Cotterstock, the late afternoon sun warming my back, dealing with the chilly thought that the swallows won’t be back till April. Their curlicue flight around the church has been a constantly moving backdrop since spring – now it’s a still-life. Except of course it isn’t. There were wrens in the undergrowth and a pair of grey wagtails and a redkite floated into view. And then I imagined that the swallows had left multi-coloured vapour trails behind them in the sky, complete with whizzy sound effects, and started feeling better. And then a kingfisher came under the bridge arch, took a fish right in front of me, and sat with it on a dead branch right opposite, shimmering in the sun. And I felt much, much better!
13 September 2016, Half a dozen chiffchaff calling by the river this morning where there are only two or three in spring. Single Garden Warbler too. The migrants are passing through on their way south.
6 August 2016, Mallard duck and a kingfisher.
4 August 2016, River Nene near Snipes meadow.
31 July 2016, Heard kingfisher sounds by the Nene today that sounded like there was a nest nearby and waited for a while. Got two videos showing the birds as they aren’t usually seen.
30 July 2016, Grasshopper warbler at Snipes Meadow.
1 July 2016, Swallow’s nest in Cotterstock church porch.
2 July 2016, Life goes on. A hypnotically relaxing video from a meadow south of Oundle.Life goes on.
4 June 2016, Earlier this week I heard the unmistakable sound of a woodpecker chick calling from a nest by the Nene, so went back the next morning with my video camera.
10 May 2016, Southwick Forest on Sunday evening, distilled into one minute.
24 April 2016, Amazing range of sounds in Southwick Forest tonight – a tugboat honk from a passing raven that made me jump and set the trees quivering, wobbly tawny and screechy barn owls, muntjac barks, then a lone grasshopper warbler quietly singing in the darkened scrub
5 April 2015, Glapthorn Cow Pasture. A few minutes of the dawn chorus at around 6 am.
12 April 2015, Glapthorn Cow Pasture. This is the first nightingale I’ve heard singing this year, recorded at about 7.30 am. It’s the first bird that you hear and it’s trading bursts of song with a blackcap nearby in the thicket – both are hidden from view. In the next few days the nightingale’s song will become much louder – at the moment it’s at about 6 on a scale that goes up to 11!
14 April 2015. A brief glimpse of a Yellow Wagtail on the side-weir near Cotterstock Lock
17 April 2015, Glapthorn Cow Pasture. An unusually visible nightingale although it’s too dark to see his gingery colour, and he only sings occasionally. I posted the whole clip because you seldom see them for this long and as relaxed as this. Notice the “growling” sounds he starts to make at 5.35.
22 April, Southwick Forest. Heard my first cuckoo of the year, just in time for St George’s day. Only a few calls at a time, but a really welcome addition to the spring soundscape.
2/9/2014 I heard a blackcap singing quietly deep in a hedge on Sunday, a willow warbler yesterday and three chiffchaffs by the river today. They were all in places where I didn’t hear those species in spring. I’m guessing that they’re passing through on their way south…..
8/1/2014 Twelve short videos of the same scene on the River Nene between Oundle and Cotterstock – the changing sights and sounds of the seasons in a three-minute year.
26/6/2013 I would expect nightingales to finish singing locally around the end of the first week in June. This year there are still three singing regularly in the forest above Southwick. I recorded this nightingale last night at around 10.30pm, when the only other sounds were the lambs on the other side of the valley.
12/5/2013 What a beautiful spring this is turning out to be!
He can’t be seen in the video as he’s well hidden, but this is the sound of the first nightingale I’ve heard this spring.
He’s just arrived at this nesting site in a thicket after migrating all the way from West Africa to Glapthorn Cow Pasture in Northamptonshire UK.
Every year the the nightingales arrive around the 18th of April, even though this year spring is about a month late.
I seem to have heard a new and different African arrival for the first time on each successive day during the last week, though no cuckoo yet. What an extraordinary spring!
20/1/2013 The birds have fallen into a deep winter hush. Only a few fieldfares were clacking as I tramped through the snow towards Biggin Hall. The ruined barn where a barnowI buzzed me back in 2008 has been done up as a shooting lodge, and the owls will have to find a new place to roost in spring. It has a lovely view looking across to Glapthorn and Short Wood on the other side of the valley, and I was very taken by the door bell.
Yesterday I saw two robins fighting in the garden, dunnocks scrapping in the bottom of a hedgerow near Snipe meadow, and some very excitable greattits near the recreation ground. This morning at 9am a songthrush was singing in a nearby garden, as he has done for a week now. On a trip to North London in the afternoon I heard a few notes of a blackbird in full song – spring seems to be coming very early….
29/12/2012 The first gales in a long time came roaring from the south. Geese flew in a great circle over Snipe meadow, and a single lapwing called as it rose against the wind. A songthrush took off from a tree near the boathouse and wheeled round and round the flooded meadow as if glorying in its own energy and strength.
26/12/2012 A few weeks ago I was surprised to see two muntjac deer at the edge of Snipe Meadow and managed to get a photo of one before they both melted into the hedgerow. At 6pm today I was passing Glapthorn Cow Pasture and popped in for a few moments to listen for tawny owls. A muntjacdeer started barking as soon as I opened the gate. Hard to reconcile the sound with its small size and timidity, especially on your own in the dark!
25/12/2012 A mild and wet Christmas day. Poked my head out of the back door early this morning and thought I heard a few blackbird calls, but they turned out to be a distant mistle thrush. Walked down to the river Nene and took this image of some geese on the flooded meadow
18/11/2012 A lovely hazy Sunday, the noon sun just beginning to warm through the morning frost. At the edge of Southwick forest a songthrush suddenly broke into full song. There was too much background noise to make recordings so I took some photos instead. The red kite’s forked tail was picked out by the sunlight as he watched me walk back down the hill.
4/11/2012 Walking above Southwick I came across half a dozen goldcrests (a “charm” of goldcrests?) twittering away in a thicket. They were hard to spot but not at all shy when it came to singing.
20/10/2012 I sent some of of my birdsong CDs to a customer in Hong Kong. He emailed back with a lovely recording he’d made of an Asian magpie robin called Ludwig, duetting with a nightingale from one of the CDs. Ludwig & Nightingale Duet
This is an informal diary of birdsong, including nightingales, recorded during 2012 in the woods around Oundle in Northamptonshire, UK. Latest entry is at the top – scroll down to see previous entries. Click here for information about my birdsong CDs.
18 June 2012, 8.00pm – There were two nightingales singing sporadically in the scrub – great to hear them still singing, though much of the intensity and volume has fallen away. They blend in much better with the thrushes and willow warblers.
In a hedge at the far side of the forest I got as close as I could to this yellowhammer. It’s a sound that carries well – I often hear it through an open car window when driving – but somehow goes transparent as you get closer. The rhythm is very distinctive, as is the slightly wheezy tone.
As I was recording a buzzard wheeled above, finally landing on the highest branch of the tallest tree in a stand of Scots Pines opposite. He kept up his repeated calls until I left and was out of sight.
Back near the scrub there were kewicks from a tawny owl. There was sparse singing from all three of the nightingales as dusk finally fell, and another was wheeting from further into the woods. I’d have expected them to have stopped singing by now – perhaps the the cool wet weather
has affected them?
June 2012, 10.00pm – I went to the forest expecting that the nightingales would have stopped singing – feathers are starting to appear on paths and pavements as birds go into their moult at the end of the breeding season. But there was one wheeting and growling in the woods above the scrub. Heavy rain began to fall, so I ran to the old railway carriage for shelter. The sound of the rain in the leaves and dripping through the rotted, leaking roof was enchanting, but I knew that at some point I’d have to go out in it with nothing but a thin jacket. No sign of a let up after an hour, so it was a sodden walk through thigh-high wet grass down the path to Southwick.
June 2012, 10.00am – A calm sunny morning in Snipe Meadow. Under some overhanging branches a moorhen
was tending to a chick, with a blackcap singing nearby. In the distance is the repeated shrieking call of a heron which was being mobbed by some crows. A reedwarbler sang from the trees further down the riverbank – parts of the call reminds me of a blackbird clucking. Coming back through the meadow a sedgewarbler was singing from the reed bed – of all the migrants this speaks most to me of the wildness and syncopation of African music.
6 June 2012, 9.00pm – after a windy and rainy day the evening is calm. Rain drips from the leaves but there is no breeze flowing through them. Less birdsong than a week ago, and only the most persistent nightingale still singing at the edge of the scrub. I stood during a rain shower in the old railway carriage, a single robin and clucking blackbird nearby. Then down the path towards Cotterstock and a left turn along the edge of the forest. I was startled by a low growl on the other side of a deer fence. Panthers came to mind, but it was three pigs rooting about in the long
As I watched them a barn owl flew across, pale white against a stand of trees, its wings flapping in slow motion. It seemed to be flying to a grid, backwards and forwards across a territory stretching hundreds of yards. Later I walked across one of its flightlines, and it flew directly at me, eyes on a level with mine, before veering off when only 20 feet away. Still no sound from its wings! What made that even more remarkable was clearly hearing the flutter of three bats as they changed direction around me a few minutes later. As dusk fell a barn owl called from a tree – alone in the dark the sound has a low menace that no recording could ever do justice to….
I’d just heard my first grasshopper warbler of the year when two muntjacs started barking to each other in a copse with fields all around. One had a much higher note than the other. Very atmospheric out in the open with the sound bouncing off stands of trees back in the forest.When I got back to the forest entrance at gone 11pm the last nightingale was still singing. He has sung nonstop since 20 April and failed to entice a mate.Some of his calls were very varied and elaborate and I found it difficult to come away. Soon he’ll give up and that’ll be it till the return from Africa next spring. I listened to him all the way down to the bottom of the hill, and stood for a while next to the brook. So many sounds, such a lovely evening. So lucky.
27 May 2012, 3.00am – Up before dawn to check which of the nightingales were still without a mate and singing through the night . One was singing at Glapthorn and one at Southwick Forest – silence at Short Wood and the Middle school. By that reckoning 6 of the 8 males I’ve heard have at least paired up.
Skylarks began to fizzle in the fields, there was the odd tawny hoot, more nightingales, pheasants and wood pigeons, then robins, and the dawn chorus exploded into life. I recorded this nightingale and blackcap as the forest started filling with sound – only five minutes earlier the nightingale had been virtually singing alone.
Further down the footpath towards Cotterstock I got this lovely clean recording of a wren among some conifers. There’s a very quiet call from a red kite near the beginning.
As the sun slanted through the trees I moved back to the forest entrance listening for blackcaps, but had the glorious experience of picking out a garden warbler – the first time I’ve been able to record one. It’s notoriously difficult to distinguish from the blackcap’s call, but it has a warmer sound and in this case was much more regular, singingng
from higher in the trees and moving around a number of songposts about 20 yards apart. I felt very blessed.
22 May 2012, 10.30am – the first true day of summer, with bright sun and a warm breeze. There was birdsong in the trees by the river, and dappled sunlight coming through the fresh green leaves. I managed to get really close to this robin and blackcap as they took turns to sing – for the first time the sound of insects is being picked up in the recordings. On the way back there was a small flock of starlings near the rugby club.
18 May 2012, 9.30am – Walked down the river towards Cotterstock. It was breezy but there were warblers in Snipe Meadow and plenty of birdsong in the trees. A pair of geese flew over and I had time to set up the recorder while they went round in a circle and returned. This is the best recording I’ve made of a common sound that’s not easy to capture. You definitely have to be in the right place at the right time.
16 May 2012, 9.30pm – midnight – No wind at all, so a great time for listening. Three nightingales were singing in the forest scrub at Southwick until the sounds gradually faded as dusk fell. In the near silence I walked further into the wood and heard the gentle, spaced out hoot of a long-eared owl.
By the time I got back to the scrub one nightingale had started up again with the sort of slower-tempoed, very varied singing that suggests he’s still looking for a mate. In the dark it’s a glorious, resonant sound that seems to fill a huge area of the wood for such a small bird. I listened for 40 minutes or so, then thanked him aloud and left. I could hear him all the way down the track to the car in Southwick.
I drove back home to Oundle and was just putting my key in the front door when I unexpectedly heard the same sound, a tiny, distant crackling of song. The usual nighttime suspects are robins and thrushes, but this was unmistakably a nightingale somewhere on the outskirts of Oundle. It’s not easy to track sounds to their source in a town, as it bounces off so many buildings, but after a few false starts I finally found him on the Cotterstock road just past the Middle School. His singing wasn’t as beautiful, and the sound of the A605 wasn’t an ideal background, but it was lovely to hear so close to home. There’s a very definite echo after the end of each of his calls as it bounces off a nearby building.
13 May 2012, 10.30am – A lovely day, breezy but sunny. Nightingales sang occasionally from the scrub near the entrance to the forest, moving around their patches of territory. I heard a sound I couldn’t recognise, maybe a bird of prey calling from higher up but further into the thickets. It wasn’t until it broke cover and flew past me that I recognised the elegantly swept back and pointed wings of a hobbyhawk. The repetitive, almost gull-like calls can be heard in the background between the chirrups of a nearby blackcap. Later in the evening I caught the last few calls of a blackbird in the garden.
12 May 2012, 8.30pm – A glorious evening, no wind and quite a bit of sun. An idyllic soundscape in the calm of the forest – two cuckoos, three nightingales, songthrush, blackbird, blackcaps, willow warblers and a distant muntjac. Flat batteries in the recorder, but what a wonderful time to just listen in the moment. As night fell a low dark shape trotted towards me on a path – fox? or badger? He sensed me and scampered off with a badger’s heavy footfall.
9 May 2012, 8.30pm – I drove up the lovely valley from Southwick to Bulwick where the church bellringers were having their weekly practice. The sound of the bells seemed to quieten most other birds, but robins are made of much sterner stuff and they were defiantly singing away. The evenings seem to be warming up but there was still a drizzle which got steadily worse as I walked up the field to Southwick Forest. The nightingales were silent but the tawny owls hooted away for a few minutes at their usual spot. I walked to an area where there is often a long-eared owl nest, but there are no “squeaky gate” calls from the chicks yet.
7 May 2012, 10.30am – Up to the forest, breezy and dry but rain forecast for the afternoon. Heard a wonderful blackcup singing in long, sizzling bursts with both songthrush and blackbird imitations. The recording isn’t that good technically because of the wind and having to crawl on my hands and knees to get close enough, but to my ear there’s songthrush tone and phrasing from the beginning and a clear blackbird phrase at around 20 seconds. There’s only the one bird singing throughout. Walking back up the hill from Southwick to the water tower I recorded this classic great tit sound.
6 May 2012, 4.30am – 8.00am – Got up early to see how many nightingales were singing in Glapthorn Cow Pastures, Short Wood and Southwick Forest. The dawn chorus was well under way on a calm morning with a hint of frost. At Glapthorn a nightingale was in full song in the second deer enclosure. Another gave a few wheets from close by but otherwise left him to it. There are some woodpecker sounds towards the end of the clip.
Towards the farm there was a muntjac deer barking in the distance, with blackcaps and wrens close by. There’s an interesting trill just before the fourth bark – possibly a female cuckoo?
Two nightingales were singing in Short Wood, one out in the open in a leafless tree, but got no good recordings so on to the forest. Here I found a nightingale on the edge of the scrub with a cuckoo calling behind it. By now the pace is more leisurely and there’s a wonderfully powerful call right at the end. There was another singing further up the wood so I heard six nightingales in all. At around 7.00am the sun came out for the photo below, which looks down from the forest towards Southwick village.
I was heading downhill for home when a characteristic sound had me running back. The beautiful chiming call of a mistle thrush! I don’t hear them that often, and certainly not when out recording. The batteries had gone flat, and by the time they were swapped with ones from the camera he’d flown a couple of hundred metres into the wood. Every time I got close enough he retreated a similar distance and the recording was made a very long way from where I’d first heard him. But well worth it – what an evocative sound! Home for a well-earned breakfast and to learn from the radio that today is International Dawn Chorus Day!
5 May 2012, 9.00am – Walked by the River Nene at Snipe Meadow. Wonderful to see the river flowing so fast, the water standing on the meadows, and to hear the first reed and sedge warblers of the year. The wooded area downstream is full of birds – lots of wrens and robins, chaffinch and blackbird. There’s also a cuckoo which is sometimes heard in Oundle. I recorded the beautiful clear voice of a blackcap with the sound of a weir in the background.
3 May 2012, 7.30pm – Rain all day again, but dry and calm in the evening. I managed to record the Southwick Forest cuckoo near a fast-running ditch at my second attempt. He’d flown from his previous songpost directly over my head, as fast and straight as a homing pigeon, calling as he flew. He then settled a few hundred yards away, and I breathlessly caught up just in time to record him before he moved off again. As dusk fell the tawny owls started up by the old railway carriage on the path to Woodnewton – there’s a wonderful moment every evening this time of year when several call together. The Open Country programme went out this afternoon – lots of emails arrived straight after it, including some interesting nightingale reminiscences. The programme is called Northamptonshire Inspirations and can be listened to from the BBC website
1 May 2012, 8.00pm – Went in search of a Mayday cuckoo in Southwick forest. There were a few sporadic calls, which always stopped as soon as I started recording. However, I was delighted to hear a nightingale from halfway up the path from Southwick, singing in the scrub near the forest entrance. That’s the first I’ve heard there this year, and already at full volume. On a calm night you’ll hear him from right down in the village. Another started up as I came closer, and the two nightingales began singing against each other. The nearer one sounds very bright and clear as he sings from the low scrub – the other is about 40 metres away among taller trees.
29 April 2012, 11.30am – foul weather, with high winds and talk of 40mm falling during the day. Went up to Southwick Forest to listen to the sounds of running water, which have been completely missing during the dry winter. The most memorable image is of a hare throwing up a heavy spray as he raced through wet grass. Southwick brook was in full spate and I recorded the water in a ditch where the forest opens out again. There’s a wren prattling away in the background.
27 April 2012, 10.30am – up to Glapthorn and Southwick with David Garrett, and Richard Uridge and Helen Chetwynd from Radio 4’s Open Country radio programme. Luckily the wind had backed off and their was only a light drizzle. Managed to deliver a live singing nightingale for their microphone right on cue, and talked about the birds and the how and why of recording them. Too busy to do any recording myself, but took this photo of David talking about his poetry among the Short Wood bluebells. The programme contacted me only a week or so beforehand, and it’s going out on the 3 May so all very timely…
26 April 2012, 10.30am – cycled over to Glapthorn again, where the two nightingales were singing against each other in windy conditions. Then to Southwick wood, where a male was singing above the roar of the wind in the oaks. I later heard another further down the ride. I’ll make a dawn visit soon to check how many there are.
25 April 2012, 8.30pm – arrived at Glapthorn Cow Pastures as the light was fading and heard a nightingale in the lower deer enclosure wheeting and churring (a low grating sound). They make a variety of unexpected sounds, sometimes known as “growling”- I’ve even heard the occasional whinny. And they don’t always battle out their territory purely by singing – I’ve seen two males physically fighting on the ground, making cackling sounds that were anything but beautiful!
23 April 2012, 7.30pm – walked up the hill from Southwick to the forest. A grim evening, cool with a steady drizzle. No sign of the nightingales which usually sing there. A muntjac deer started to bark near the old railway carriage, which was originally dragged there as shelter for shooting parties. I could just see him through the trees, no bigger than a medium-sized dog. In a tree above my head a tiny goldcrest flitted among the branches. I mistook him for a wren until I noticed his tail wasn’t cocked and identified his high-pitched call – it can be heard between the muntjac barks.
21 April 2012, 5.15 – 6.30am – went to Glapthorn CP last night at about 9pm. There were 2 or 3 nightingales growling, wheeting and singing sporadically in a downpour – far too wet to record. It was calm this morning so I tried Short Wood and recorded a lovely songthrush in full voice. There was a very distant cuckoo calling from the other side of the valley in Southwick Forest – the first I’ve heard this year, but too quiet to record. Later a nightingale started singing, with a couple of woodpecker drums close by. There’s a real feeling that spring has arrived.
19 April 2012, 5.30am – I’d been listening out for nightingales at Glapthorn Cow Pastures for about a week with no luck. They usually arrive here around the 18th. I woke at 5am this morning and lay there thinking for a few minutes that dawn was the best chance to hear them when they first arrive, since they fly in by night. No chance of sleep after that, so I grabbed my Zoom handheld recorder and set off.
It was a cold, drizzly morning but there they were! Two males singing from adjacent areas in the wood that have been fenced in to deter deer – the thicker undergrowth seems to attract them. The first nightingale was farther off in the middle of a thicket. The second nightingale was closer to the path, but still invisible. Great singers both – and how they lift the singing of all the other birds in the vicinity!
31 May 2009 – Glapthorn Cow Pastures -2.00 – 3.00am,slight breeze
I arrived and set up in the dark, just catching the end of some wonderful wobbly owl calls accompanying a solo nightingale, with a muntjac barking deeper into the wood.
The same nightingale kept on singing with a lovely relaxed rhythm.
As the first signs of dawn were showing in the sky I moved up to Southwick forest and recorded a nightingale in the scrub with chiffchaffs, blackbirds, and many others.
Moving further into the pines the birdsong became less interesting, but I’m never quite prepared for the extraordinary beauty of the dawn light as it filters through the trees at a low angle. I was glad I had the camera – this image says it all for me.
29 May 2009 – Short Wood 11.00 am – noon very warm
A rare chance to record a nightingale during the day. This is one of three or four which have been singing regularly in the wood this year.
A blackcap sings close by.
8 May 2009 – Southwick Forest 10.00 pm – 11.45 pm very still
A gorgeous sunset on the way up to the forest, a hushed wait as darkness fell, then at 11.00 a solo nightingale burst into song. I left the recorder running and walked for half a mile in each direction, but couldn’t hear an answering singer. As I left at 11.45 he looked set to sing the whole night through.10 May 2009 – Glapthorn Cow Pastures4.00 – 5.00 AM very stillThe first calm morning after a week of winds. Two nightingales were duelling before dawn, trading phrases and cutting across each other. Their intensity grows as other birds start to join the dawn chorus.I heard this blackbird at the entrance to the wood, sounding lovely against the surrounding blackcaps.I moved on to Southwick Forest, and finally recorded the cuckoo that has been leading me a merry dance for the last couple of weeks.4 May 2009 – Glapthorn Cow Pastures2.00 – 3.00 AM very stillI got back at 2.00am from taking my son to a music festival in Leeds, and went to Glapthorn before going to bed. Two nightingales were singing beautifully on the lower ride.This is my favourite recording of the year so far…… 26 April 2009 – Southwick Forest 5.00 AM – 9.00 AM zero degrees, very stillIt was very cold, but I made some wonderfully atmospheric and unusual recordings in the complete absence of man- made sounds. Click on the links below to hear them….There were two nightingales singing in the scrub near the forest entrance just after dawn, but I was surprised by the low, fruity call that interrupted the nearest about 15 seconds into this short clip. Was it another nightingale, or something else? It sounds like a curlew, but I’ve never heard one locally before, or could it be the first part of a green woodpecker’s call? (thanks to Geoff Sample who identified this as a female cuckoo call 5/5/09).Moving further into the forest, I heard this greater spotted woodpecker drumming against the choral cooing of scores of woodpigeons.I came across a grasshopper warbler flitting about in the open. Here his call is more intermittent than at dusk, when it can easily be mistaken for an insect.I went back in the evening to chase an elusive cuckoo – he still refuses to sing for long enough to start recording – but heard this long-eared owl just after dark. His spaced out hoots came from deep in the conifers. Hopefully there will soon be some chicks, which sound like a persistent squeaky gate….sunrise shadows of me and my parabolic mic 23 April 2009 – Glapthorn Cow Pastures7 – 9.00pm warm and still Nightingales were now singing in competition on the lower ride. There were two, possibly three, singing and calling in bursts of about 15 minutes with long gaps in between. The second singer had a much sweeter tone, and moved around more, switching to the other side of the ride at one point. As dusk fell the first was left growling and wheeting quietly in his original thicket.click on the links above to hear the birdsong… 19 April 2009 – Glapthorn Cow Pastures5.00 – 6.00 AM cold and stillI arrived before the main dawn chorus had started, and a nightingale was singing alone in the dark. He was in the same spot as before, and the power and range of song had greatly increased. click on the links above to hear the birdsong…15 April 2009 – Glapthorn Cow Pastures7.00 – 7.30pm warm with a gentle windThey’ve arrived!There was a report of three nightingales singing at Glapthorn around midday, but I only heard one during the afternoon and evening. There was another singing from dense scrub in Southwick forest. The Glapthorn nightingale was a little subdued, and not yet up to full volume and virtuosity. But many of the elements of the song are there, and it’s lovely to hear it again. He was singing to the right of the bottom ride, tantalisingly close but still invisible in the thorn thicket.To hear him click here
|24 May 2009 – Southwick Forest 3.00 AM – 7.00 AM very stillAfter a long windy period – a calm morning at last. As dawn was breaking I recorded this nightingale up close – there are answering calls from a distance.Further into the forest I recorded a wash of woodpigeons, wrens, and blackbirds looking into an open area of conifers. I’m a bit foxed by the repeated chicken-like call. Perhaps it really is a domestic fowl.I love this mix of song and calls based around a chiffchaff. By now the dawn chorus was easing off a little in its intensity.This short clip with a wren rattling away at full volume is joined near the end by the quiet purring sounds of a turtle dove.It was a magical morning, although the birds were competing with an all-night rave somewhere towards Bulwick!|