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International Dawn Chorus Day

The first Sunday in May is International Dawn Chorus Day. What started as a 4am birthday party in the 1980s – hosted by naturalist Chris Baines in the Midlands – has now spread throughout the UK and across the world.

And in a little bit of the New Forest 5 hardy souls braved the 1c temperature to join Julian Moseley for our 4am songsters. We gathered at Hawkhill Inclosure on the Brockenhurst Road a kilometre or so past Hatchet Pond. This is the inclosure where the Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis was a long-staying favourite in 2012, but today we were hoping for some of our more usual songsters, and we weren’t disappointed.

Although cold, it was perfectly still with clear skies. Jupiter was shining overhead and several of the moons easily visible through binoculars. We walked a few hundred metres to a broad area of heathland, surrounded by (mainly) conifer plantation. A single Woodcock Scolopax rusticolar greeted us with a roding call as it circled around unseen.


An early Robin Erithacus rubeculawas soon joined by Blackbird Turdus merulaand, Song Thrush Turdus philomelosand then a single Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus churring loudly in the middle distance. A very distant, very faint Cuckoo Cuculus canoruswas the first of at least six males calling and a couple of Tawny Owls Strix aluco signed off for the night as the sun began to light up up the sky. A Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus walked along the far edge of clearing barking loudly, and we took that as a cue to set off for an easy circular walk through the inclosure and back round on the heath to the car park. This is an attractive area of the Forest with plenty of flora and fauna throughout the year. Although we were a little surprised to have been told by friends the previous day of Purple Emperor sightings in the area. This became clearer later in the day when we realised they’d been talking about the Emperor Moth rather than the Butterfly. Doh!!

Many thanks to Julian for leading another excellent walk, and it was great to have such an obliging dawn chorus on Dawn Chorus Day.

Birds we heard (or saw)

Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
Woodcock, Scolopax rusticola – several or one busy bird.
Woodpigeon, Columba palumbus
Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus – at least six males, one female.
Tawny Owl, Strix aluco
Nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus – at least three.
Carrion Crow, Corvus corone
Goldcrest, Regulus regulus
Coal Tit, Periparus ater
Wren, Troglodytes troglodytes
Blackbird, Turdus merula
Song Thrush, Turdus philomelos
Mistle Thrush, Turdus viscivorus
Robin, Erithacus rubecula
Stonechat, Saxicola rubicola
Tree Pipit, Anthus trivialis – several.
Meadow Pipit, Anthus pratensis
Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs
Goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis
Siskin, Carduelis spinus