Lockdown Birding Part 7
|The sun rises over the slopes of Pedro Muñoz at 08.23 (Martin Kelsey)
The Cetti's Warbler had beaten me to it. I started my first lockdown birding session of the day at 06.25, a full 97 minutes before sunrise. I had been expecting the Little Owls to be calling, and they were. I had hoped for Scops Owl - but they were not. But as I got out of bed at 06.15, an abrupt barrage of sound assaulted me: an impatient but rich-toned blast coming from the bottom of the garden. Their Spanish name Ruiseñor bastardo can be translated as "False Nightingale", based largely due to similarities between their warm brown plumage and often skulking habits, but lacking the quality of the real Ruiseñor. However, a shared trait for nocturnal song could also account for its etymology.
It was an awe-inspiring dark sky, no moon, no clouds and no suggestion whatsoever of a glow to the east. The Milky Way stretched overhead. The zodiacal constellations Sagittarius, Scorpio and Capricorn presented themselves to the south. To the east of them, in conjuction: Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. The anxious cries of Little Owl filled the coombe.
At 06.31, the rough, scratchy sound of Black Redstart broke the stillness, followed by the first cockerels. Quickly in succession I added the songs of Barn Swallow (06.34), Blackbird (06.35), Woodlark (06.36), Great Tit (06.37) and Wren (06.39). And then, at 06.55 a subtle paleness on the eastern horizon could just be discerned, a harbinger of an approaching dawn, heralded by the nasal wheeze of a Greenfinch.
Just five minutes later, the constellations were starting to fade rapidly and my orientation across the sky was now marked by the brightest stars that remained: Vega directly overhead, Spica close to the south-west horizon and Arcturus to the west. At 07.25, a Cuckoo started calling and a Blackbird sang from our roof just a few feet from where I stood on the balcony, with a Nightingale starting a few minutes later. House Sparrows gave their loud chirruping from the depths of the orange tree beside me at 07.34, and three minutes later our local Corn Bunting joined in with its jangling rattle.
|Hoopoe at 07.46 (Martin Kelsey)
The planets had now disappeared in the brightning pre-dawn gloam. A Crag Martin, looking quite bat-like, fluttered as a silhouette against the pale grey-blue sky, just as Pipestrelles came into roost in the metal tubing of an old electricity supply pole beside the house. By 07.46, as a Hoopoe was calling, Spotless Starlings crossed the sky in urgent straight-line trajectories, one at a time. A pre-dawn bumblebee arrived to nectar on the heavily-scented orange blossom.
|A pre-dawn Bumblebee on orange blossom at 07.48 (Martin Kelsey)
At 08.00, still two minutes before sunrise, the church clock chimed for the first time (it is programmed to give everyone in the village an undisturbed night's sleep), followed shortly afterwards by the bill-clacking of the pair of White Storks that nest on the belfry. It was as if they had just woken up and wished to join-in. A glow started on the summit of the western ridge, catching the rays from the still invisible sun. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drummed. Smoke started to rise from a chimney in the village as Red-rumped Swallow chortled past. It was not until 08.23 when the sun itself broke the eastern horizon, a hill slope leading to the summit of Pedro Muñoz and I withdrew to have breakfast. I had recorded 28 species of bird.