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Bewdley Town Council

May in the Forest

By Linda Iles Bewdley Town Council

Friday, 12 April 2019

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The first Sunday of the month is International Dawn Chorus Day, often marked by special walks. However, you don’t have to join an organised event to hear a free, virtuoso performance somewhere near your home. Setting the alarm in time to be out in the woods ready for a 5.30am sunrise may take grim determination but the reward is memorable. The build-up of birdsong and the effect of the gathering light among the tall trees is uplifting and magical. You can stand still and let yourself be blessed.

The dominant songs will probably be those of Blackbird and Song Thrush. They perch as high as they can to broadcast their melodies: the Blackbird repeating them twice; the Song Thrush rather more varied in its repertoire and repeating each phrase three times. If, like me, you struggle to identify the other songsters, you can listen to recordings on websites such as www.rspb.org.uk  to become familiar with them. Or you can just enjoy the occasion and make up your own mind whether you are experiencing a behaviour that is purely functional – an establishment of territory - or an outpouring of joy.

I have only heard Nightingales a few times and sadly never in the Wyre Forest, where they were last noted in the 1940s, but I can re-read and enjoy Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ to recapture the wonder of the elaborate song or hear 3 hours of it courtesy of YouTube! The Nightingale favours coppiced woodland and scrub, which used to be common enough in Wyre and other woodlands in the past. The forest also incorporated much more heath in the past and efforts have been made recently to restore and extend this habitat so that many species threatened with local extinction can hold on.  Norman Hickin’s ‘The Natural History of an English Forest’, published in 1971, talks of the Nightjar still being numerous in areas of heath and bracken despite a decline from the earlier years of the century. He describes watching a Nightjar performing aerial acrobatics as it hunted moths at dusk, silhouetted against the sky. The bird’s mouth is wide and fringed with bristles to aid it in catching its food and its brown cryptic-patterned plumage allows it to avoid detection during the day. I was amazed to hear its loud, ‘churring’ song (like a clockwork toy winding down) on the RSPB website. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to welcome this fascinating former resident back to our forest?

Linda Iles

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