Chris Watson's Ynys-hir dawn chorus diary
Guest blogger: Ace sound recordist Chris Watson was up in the wee small hours to record the dawn chorus here at Ynys-hir this morning.
Tuesday 31 May
0235h Woken up by hail rattling on my bedroom window.
0240h Alarm ringtone gets me out of bed.After a stormy and very cold night the weather miraculously clears as I drive into the reserve and I can see starlight through the tree canopy. The wind has dropped and in the woodland it's calm, still and very quiet. The microphone cables and connectors are really wet so it's an anxious moment when I plug in to listen if everything is still working after an over night soaking. The system powers up and through my headphones I hear... virtually nothing.
Ynys-hir's beautiful woodland
0329h This is exactly what I was hoping for, a deep sense of quiet and a perfect background for what I'm hoping will unfold over the following 90 minutes. There are a few distant calls from far off. Canada geese across the salt marsh, mallards, teal and a moorhen on one of the ponds.
A tawny owl hoots way down along the ridge and almost in reply I hear the distant strangulated calls of a vixen.
0344h I'm completely startled out of my concentration on distant sounds as a branch snaps and falls to the floor, any echo is swallowed up quickly by the muted woodland atmosphere.
0350h Simultaneously a wood pigeon, tawny owl and redstart sing and within moments other woodpigeons join in. I also hear a redshank displaying out across the estuary. Canada geese take flight.
0401h A robin is the first bird to sing near the mics and others answer quickly. This burst of songs seems to awaken a song thrush into replying, its two note repeating phrases are a register lower than the robins. The chorus has begun to take shape. Within a few minutes it's becoming difficult to indentify individuals as the accumulating notes melt and merge.
0414h A blackbird, my current favourite songbird, leaps from the left hand side of my headphones and then rattles an alarm, possibly in response to a nearby grey squirrel I keep hearing chatter.
0418h A rich chorus of resident species now; robins, song thrush and blackbirds with a lower backing of woodpigeons.
0420h cut for a passing military jet.
0424h The thrushes are joined by a chiffchaff singing its common name, so now resident and migrant birds in unison. A blackcap now off to the right. Everything is singing at once! This is the dawn chorus, even an unusual tawny owl call somewhere in the canopy and distant ravens way off overhead.
0438h Rather belatedly a wood warbler, one of Ynys-hir's woodland specialists, wakes up and joins in the chorus although it's really difficult now to indentify individual songs as the soundscape is so dense. There's also a pied flycatcher singing in there somewhere...
0450h There's enough daylight now for me to read my scribbled notes and although the chorus is still ringing out across the woodland I can hear that the energy level is gradually waning as the light level rises.
0500h The chorus has peaked - what a fabulous experience and something that will stay with me throughout the day.
I'm off to try and record some individual songs and look forward to breakfast.
Chris is an acclaimed, BAFTA-winning wildlife sound recordist, responsible for capturing the sounds of the natural world for programmes such as Autumnwatch, Life In The Undergrowth and Life Of Mammals to name just a few. We'll be featuring his dawn chorus recording later in the series.