I have often heard birds singing before dawn, but for the first time today, I got up on purpose to listen to the dawn chorus from our back garden. Above you may see the setting, featuring oversized walnut tree, brown recycling bin and two plastic chairs. The one on the lawn is where I sat in the grey hour before dawn. May I just say in passing that I am no gardener. I don't garden, I write books. If I also got a few more books published, I would be able to pay a gardener. But there you go.
This morning sunrise was officially at 4.47am. I did a bit of preliminary dawn chorus research, and discovered that it begins an hour before sunrise. I was out in a big coat in my plastic chair at 3.45am and there were already a couple of blackbirds and robins singing in the distance. The garden was still almost in darkness, but as time passed and the sky gradually lightened, colour seeped into the flower beds.
Then came the sound of a blackbird tuning up in the neighbouring garden. It was answered by another somewhere in Gaia Lane (which runs beside the old moat which was once part of the Close fortifications, at the bottom of our garden). This pair kept up what sounded like a duet, but which experts assure is is more like a shouting match. Like two drunk blokes across a street. Oi, mush, yeah, you. Yeah? You looking at my bird? Establishing territory. It was interspersed by sudden trills from a wren somewhere in the moat.
I kept an ear cocked for a thrush, but didn't hear one. Nothing was on the wing. In the distance, perhaps up on the cathedral's facade, came the occasional caw of a rook. Three ducks flew over and landed on the school roof next door. But nothing seemed to be singing in our garden. No sound from the walnut tree above. Far off a wood pigeon called. They always used to say 'Tak two coos, Taffy.' Who knows what they sing in these politically correct days? Then in the middle distance, another wood pigeon. After a few more minutes there was noise above. A kind of gargling sleepy wood pigeon call. It took a couple of goes to get into gear, but then it was away. Then a great tit's call: 'Teacher, teacher!' Next door's blackbird took a breather, then struck up again, adding a new flourish to his repertoire. Then more cawing of rooks, until on all sides the bird choir of cathedral Close was in full voice.
The first insects began buzzing past. A couple of bats flickered home in the dawn, and I went back indoors to bed. Worth getting up for.