Photo: Jo Sinclair
We are hosting Wake Up With Wildlife mornings at the Osprey Centre every Saturday and Sunday up to 6 May. Our stalwart volunteer Kenny welcomed in the first redstart of the spring this week, capturing a handsome singing male that seems to have chosen the camera tree as a regular perch. He can often be heard in the visitor centre on the microphone. It's always worth listening out for EJ and other birds caught on this microphone for an early alert to action and drama.
Willow warblers are another summer migrant that show spring is stepping up its pace. Their little cascades of song are on surround-sound across the reserve. At this time of year a dawn walk is a must to check in with what's landed. When I took an early morning walk last week among birch woodland, bog and heath I heard goldcrest, chaffinch, great tit, robin and wren belting out a territorial dawn chorus. Today I heard my first cuckoo.
There are sounds out there that sound truly exotic to me as an East Anglian. The burbling and bubbling of black grouse and curlews is thrilling, and I’ve familiarised myself with the grunts, croaks, whirrs and whistles of displaying woodcock and snipe too. The latter are winter visitors in the South Cambridgeshire village I come from, not resident breeding birds. The RSPB website comes in useful for checking bird audio: identify a bird by species and in most cases there are audios you can play to learn their sounds. This equips you very well for the ‘tick-list’ or daily walk, as birds are more often heard than seen, and your knowledge will quickly alert you to sightings.
Early starts are always worth it for the best chance of witnessing wildlife activity and seeing the landscape at its atmospheric best. On a fine morning I can't resist stepping out to enjoy misty monotones giving way to sunny morning sparkle and birches and spiderwebs dripping with glittering water droplets.
I reach for my audio app as often as I do my camera, recording sounds such as an impressive duet of great spotted woodpeckers. Their drumming on wood reverberates around the forest proclaiming courtship and territory. Woodpecker skulls are adapted with built-in shock absorbers, so their persistent attempts to find romance will never cause a headache... This species can be seen at close quarters on the feeders and tree trunks at the Osprey Visitor Centre. If you pay a visit see if you can tell the sexes apart.
It's not just by songs and calls you can identify birds. Goldeneye ducks on the two lochs trail can be identified by their distinctive wingbeats, the clumsy loud clap of a woodpigeon is a deliberate warning system, and snipe and woodcock use their feathers to make impressive courtship sounds. Why not join us at Loch Garten for our guided walk (every Wednesday until October - meet in car-park at 9.30) and try tuning in with us. Book your place by phoning the centre on 01479 831476. See you soon!
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