Category Archives: dawn chorus

Keeping it wild in winter

Millions of us will be tuning into Winterwatch this week as our TV screens are filled with natural winter treats. There is always a slight misconception that nature shuts down during the shorter days and as the temperature hovers around freezing. Yet there is still plenty to see and do; and its a great time to get planning as we move towards Spring. So in true list style here are five things to keep you occupied on the nature front.

  1. Visit a local nature reserve. You’re never that far from a natural wonder, where-ever you live. Organisations such as the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and National Trust have some great places to explore and the winter time is no exception. You’ll see them in a raw state as they start to come alive with the turning of the wild clocks to warmer days. Repeat the visit during the different season and you will develop a special connection.
  2. Read a nature book. In the last decade writing about nature has boomed. And there is a treasure chest of classics that have been re-issued by publishers such as Little Toller. So pop to a local bookshop, library or browse online and pick a book or some poetry to transport you into the magic of nature.
  3. Get volunteering. Green places, such as City Farms, need people to help out. Spending some time helping to make these wonderful places beacons for wildlife is really rewarding and you can get to know some great local charities. There is always plenty to do what-ever the time of year. Or you can taker part in survey’s such as the RSPB Big Garden Watch at the end of January. Many conservation organisations run similar citizen science projects throughout the year.
  4. Watch the birdies. We all know about the wonder that is the Dawn Chorus; a sound that captures the heart and lifts the soul. But the winter can be a fab time to tune into local songbirds, whether the Dawn or Dusk Chorus. And with few leaves on the trees you can actually see them too.
  5. Go for a wander. If you take the time to look you can find nature in many surprising places. Take the time to go for a wander, either from where you live or in to the local countryside. There are plenty of great walking books or plot a route on an OS Map or online. As you walk look, listen and absorb. You’ll spot things that you would have never thought would be there and you’ll get so much out of it.

So if you love Winterwatch (and the BBC Watches more generally) use it as a way to get up off of the sofa and out into the outdoors. You won’t regret it.


Sounds of our life…

As I type four young swifts have been spending days flying round in circles getting ready for their long trip south. I know this because of the distinctive screeching sound as they fly creating a re-assuring soundtrack to the summer. Its a sound that I love listening too every year and never tire of hearing.

Sounds play such an important part in our lives and yet as we dash from A to B or are plugged into digital devices there is a real risk of us losing that sonic connection with the world around us. Yes there is a lot of white noise out there but if you take the time to listen its amazing what you can hear.

The beach at Hunts Bay

Hunts Bay on Gower as the waves gently lap against the beach

Last year I was involved with a project called Sounds of our Shores. It was all about recording some of those familiar sounds from the seaside – the lapping waves, walking along a pebble beach or the richness of a Island of seabirds. The one thing that it taught me was to take the time to just stop and listen. Tuning into a day at the seaside means that you’ll see and hear a place anew; noticing things that you’ve never noticed before.

Because most of us live in towns and cities many people would rather tune out of their daily soundtrack – the potential endless noise of daily life. Sometimes it can seem that the only day of quiet is on Christmas Day, if you’re lucky. But if you peel back the layers you can start to listen out for more natural sounds: the wind gently blowing in the wind, rain falling on windows or the sweet melody of a blackbird.

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A tree full of starlings in full voice

When I walk the twenty odd minutes to the station I will always listen out for different sounds. Sometimes a birds song will stop me in my tracks as I try to locate it in a tree. It might be the shouts of joy as kids play football in a park or even the gently hum of a lawn mower.

So where-ever you live why not try and take some time out of your daily routine to listen out for familiar or new sounds. It will enrich your life and help you build up your own soundscape.

Getting connected with nature

Mid-winter might not seem to be the best time of year to encourage people to get into nature but actually it’s the best season to get started.

Despite the record mild temperatures that we’ve had in the last few months, the gradual lengthening of daylight hours is a sign to the natural world to start getting busy.

House Sparrow

Birdsong can be all around all and its worth taking the time to tune in.

With less happening you can start to hone your wildlife watching skills. It’s worth taking the time to get to know some species rather than trying to learn everything.

I’ve got into nature in a big way in the last decade, partly through work and also having a family. I’m no naturalist or ecologist but it’s amazing what you can learn by looking or listening. Importantly I think that I have never got hung up about my lack of ID skills and just enjoyed nature for its pure wonder and ability to amaze.

Taking the time to notice nature every day is really important. It’s pretty fundamental for us all to have that connection to the natural world for our well-being and also so that we can understand what is happening to wildlife.

Doing everything in bite sized chunks is a good way to get started. Set yourself a nature task every week or maybe start jotting down what you see. You can read around particular subjects but sometimes there is no substitute for just getting out there.

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One of the lovely signs of spring, primroses

The commute to work can be a handy way of introducing yourself to nature, whether you walk, cycling, drive or use public transport. Nature is all around us waiting to be discovered. And if you use the same route everyday you’ll start to get use to the things that you see or hear.

In the coming weeks things will start to flower (if they haven’t already) and the dawn chorus will begin to crank up in volume. As winter slowly turns into spring there will be lots more to see and hear.

My view is that you need to get to know nature on your terms: don’t get hung up on trying to know everything at once, just enjoy it and have fun.
Nature always has an ability to surprise and amaze us and getting a fix of nature every day is a fantastic way to enrich our lives.

A nature diary with a twist

Welcome to 2016. Time for people to write their New Year’s Resolutions and tell the world about it. So, it would be rude not to join in.


Writing a sentence of nature news gives you a chance to reflect on the changing of the seasons

Its always refreshing, I think, to look ahead to a new year and ponder some of the things that you’d like to do, or the challenges that you would like to set yourself. The papers are full of the big trends for 2016 and what you should be doing. Often, as we all know, these resolutions barely make it out of January.

This time last year I talked about the wild time memory box – something I’ll repeat this year. Its always good to capture those moments: watching a sparrowhawk hunt its prey or being amazed at the stars on the Isle of Wight, with the benefit of no street lights. And then at the end of the year you can spend time looking back on all of those amazing experiences.

For me personally I’m going to pen a nature diary with a difference. A few years back I set myself the goal of writing a diary about the natural world. Like all good intentions it started off well but gradually faded away once I got into February. I loved challenging myself to find the words to describe my experiences and feelings based on nature and the weather.

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A favourite walk could generate loads of memories

This time I’m going to write a sentence, or maybe a paragraph, about something I see or hear in the natural world each day. It could be the appearance of daffodils in the garden, the arrival of swifts or the gently fluttering of butterflies flying across the garden. Just penning the words will mean that I reflect on the nature that I’ve come across that day; adding new content to my nature memory bank.

Hopefully this bite sized nature journal will work for the whole of the year and lead to bigger and better things. Taking the time to connect with the natural world each and every day, where-ever you might be, is so important; at a time when most of us spend pretty much every waking moment staring at some sort of screen it does recharge the batteries or refresh the soul to look and listen.




Celebrating the dusk chorus

Every year I think: I must get up early, and I mean early, to enjoy the joys of the dawn chorus. I have this image of me bravely leaving the comfort of the duvet, tip-topping out of the house with a flask of steaming hot coffee and walking to the nearest part of countryside. I’d sit down and let the wall of sound that is the dawn chorus envelope me. Wow, it sounds amazing just thinking about it.

There are plenty of great walks with fantastic guides to tempt me too; the lure of a bacon butty at the end of a 5am start providing a very tempting incentive. The dawn chorus at its height is one of the wonders of the natural world. It takes the concept of birdsong to another level of intensity. Its a bit like seeing stars above a city, which can look good on a crisp clear night, and then going in to the darkness of the countryside and really seeing the sky at night and that wow moment as you stare up into the galaxy of stars.

Birdsong at this time of year is starting to intensify. I’ve had a few moments of pure pleasure watching a blue tit singing its little heart out on a walk to the station and catching sight of a house sparrow in central London creating a lovely harmony.

It feels like the birds are beginning to crank up their volume control. Tuning into the song birds in the morning before the noise of traffic grips the cityscape makes this time of year very special and its easier to do than you might think.

And yet I think that we overlook the pleasures of the dusk chorus and the ease of access to listen to birds at this time of day. Every day the amount of daylight is inching forwards our yearning for spring gets that much greater. In a months time the clocks will have changed to British Summer Time, to the relief of many people; there is this window of opportunity now as day becomes night to listen to the pure sounds of birds singing to their mates.

It dawned on me on my walk from being dropped off from my car share that the dusk chorus can be pretty good. As I got out of the car for my short walk home I was hit by a wall of sound. Yes it was coming from a small patch of woodland but it was something that I noticed for the next fifteen minutes before I reached my back door. This was a lovely backdrop for the three-quarters of mile walk as the daylight continued to fade.

Sometimes before I get home I will stop and listen to a blackbird perched high above me on a TV aerial belting out a song that can melt your heart and just floats out of the gloom and fading light. It will only be for a few minutes but it really can lift the spirits and just make you feel good.

Dusk takes hold at around Six O’Clock and you could really notice the richness of the birdsong and the variety. You don’t need to be able to identify all of the different birds singing to get a real sense of their preparation for spring. Our feathered friends know that the season that ends the long dark winter months is coming and they want to celebrate through their sweet melodies.

We should celebrate the under-rated dusk chorus. It will never have the pure intensity of the dawn chorus but its worth tuning into and making it part of your everyday dose of nature. Before long you’ll be able to recognise some of the different tunes that fill the air and you’ll have a real connection with the world around you.

So give it a go; you’ll be amazed by the wonderful bird song that you’ll be able to hear.