Listen to the Reserve
by Simon Knight
During this extreme hot spell we are all currently enduring, there is no doubt that the best time to be in the reserve is first thing in the morning.
Being in the reserve as the sun breaks the horizon is quite special. Not only is it much cooler and more comfortable, but there is also much more bird activity compared to later in the day, and they are also more vocal in the morning. It is easy to forget that our ears can be just as important as our eyes when seeking out wildlife. I love standing in one spot for a couple of minutes and just listening. Pick the right location in the reserve and you can hear insects, small mammals – mice and voles scurrying and squeaking around and of course, birds.
When you are learning to identify birds by their calls and songs it can be difficult, especially if you can’t see the bird. This is often the case at this time of year when the trees are in leaf. That’s where technology can help. There’s an app called Merlin Bird ID and it works very well. I must thank Cheryl Cronnie who has become a regular contributor to this site for steering me towards the app. The birds in the screen shot of the app were all recorded whilst I was stood on the Decorated Bridge in the reserve. There are some good species there, and on this occasion, I did get to see them all, so I know that the app is pretty accurate.
In my opinion, the easiest bird to identify in the reserve by its call is the green woodpecker. They have a loud laughing call, and I always imagined that they were laughing at me as I failed miserably to photograph them. Until recently I had never even managed to get one in my viewfinder, but I finally managed to get a shot a few weeks ago. Through some careful stalking I was able to get close enough to the one pictured here whilst it was on the ground in Village Green.
With its raspy screaming call, the jay is another bird that is easy to identify from only its call. I have also struggled to photograph this bird in the reserve. Jays are normally very shy, but the one here tolerated me for a while, and I was able to get closer than I have ever been to a jay, and this was the result.
One of the most vocal birds in the reserve is probably the robin. They are easy to find, and you can often catch them singing from low branches as you walk around the reserve. The robin’s song is most powerful and upbeat in spring when they are busy attracting mates and defending territory. They can sometimes appear somewhat inquisitive as you pass them by, and this young one was quite happy for me to photograph it from only a few feet away. So next time you are in the reserve, pick a spot near some trees or hedgerow and just listen. You may be surprised at the different sounds you hear.
Header image: immature jackdaw photographed in the reserve by Simon Knight