Sunday, 3 May 2015

May 3rd Norwich

For most people, waking up at 4am on a Sunday sounds mad, but I have a reason. Today is International Dawn Chorus Day and I am going on a walk with my dad from my flat in Norwich, towards and along the River Wensum, into the city itself and back to my flat.

We began while it was dark at 4:20 am. Even at this time of day, blackbirds everywhere sang in the darkness with a few robins as we made our way to part of the Marriott's Way. They were the only sounds we could hear as we pass houses, builders yards and crossed roads. In this video taken outside my flat at the start of our walk, you can hear a robin and a blackbird.

Song Thrush
We got to the river about 4:35am and a new set of birds joined the chorus. A few song thrushes cheerfully sang their series of loud three noted verses under lights of a streetlamp. Shortly after the thrushes started singing, wrens blasted their equally loud trills, woodpigeons cooed "take two coos taffy take two coos taffy", a quick burst of "teacher teacher" from a great tit and a blackcap sang within the trees in the brightening darkness. Mallards also added their familiar quacking to the symphony of bird song as they flew over us while walking along the section of the Marriott's Way taking us to the city. Between 4:45am and 5am, it started to rain. At the same time, we heard the first blue tits of the morning.
[Note: If you are having issues with the video above, like you cannot here it, click on the video's title. If that doesn't work, let me know.]
The River Wensum at dawn
Lesser Black-backed Gull
The rain continued as we left the natural setting of the Marriott's Way for the urban setting of the city. Trees and mud is replaced by buildings and concrete. The sound of the chorus changes. The thrushes, wrens and the other birds we were listening to a few minutes ago melts away into the distance. We were now entering a world of fewer songbirds. Traffic at this time of morning was minimal and Dad and I were almost the only people around. The light was still dim, but daylight was just around the corner. A heron surprises us as it takes off from the side of this section of the river's concrete shore, flying down river. Lesser black-backed and herring gulls called from the roofs of the large buildings, once a sound of the seaside now a big part of the urban chorus.

Norwich City Hall clocktower
Norwich Cathedral
As the new hour of 5am wore on, daylight was beginning to take a foothold and the street lights were gradually turning off one by one. Chaffinches and the delightful tinkering twitter of goldfinches were now a part of the dawn chours. A swan sat on it's nest, while it's partner was still sleeping on the river with it's head tucked under it's wings. An Egyptian goose stood atop of one of the taller buildings looking down at us. It seemed odd to see a goose so high up like this, but Egyptian geese often use trees to perch on, so this is like a big tree to them. Blackbirds have now left the chorus and were now finding food. I watched one blackbird hammer a snail out of it's shell against the pavement.
Mute Swan at it's nest
Egyptian Goose
Blackbird hammering a snail open
The River Wensum at daybreak

House Sparrow
By 6am, the chorus was nearing it's end and we made our way back to my flat. The rain eased off temporarily and it gave a few new songsters a chance to add their voice to the tail end of the chorus. A dunnock sang quietly in a hedge, house sparrows chirped between the tiles of a roof, starlings flew by us, collard doves cooed their unenthusiastic 'un-ited un-ited' calls and a greenfinch twittered and wheezed on the top branch of a tree. The dawn chorus was over as I got back to my flat, and the rain returned as soon as I got inside! Despite getting a bit wet, it was still quite an experience. I'm going to do it all over again tomorrow, this time at Mousehold Heath.

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