Early shift

Over a third into the residency and finally my first post. Part of my residency involves the collection of dawn birdsong. Dawn can begin up to an hour before sunrise so it means early starts and, as spring progresses, earlier and earlier starts. Mind you the clocks have just changed which makes it slightly easier. There is a dawn recording currently installed in the gallery which was recorded just behind the visitor centre in the last week of March – lots of Robins, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes. The one I recorded last week – on the tracks between Mason’s Copse and Drove Copse in the east of the estate – is very different. This is an area of open broad-leaved woodland, with lots of mature trees. Before there was any light in the sky the pheasant had already started loud squawking followed by a frantic beating of wings. The first bird to sing (as opposed to call) was a Song Thrush, with a seemingly infinite variety of song ideas, most repeated twice or three times and often imitating other birds (in this case a nuthatch). A little later a wren joined in, a very close quarters – much less variety in the song, but always reminds me of spring. The most unexpected moment came just as the sun rose. I had been aware of the distant drumming of a woodpecker – most likely a great Spotted Woodpecker – and suddenly this drumming was much nearer. I started recording, and then another woodpecker started just above where I was standing. As each bird was on a different tree each produced a different note. The two woodpeckers continued, in dialogue, for 5-6 minutes. I’m off to edit this audio material down so that it can be installed in the gallery next week.

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