Early Birds

This morning I woke up with the dawn chorus.  I am naturally an early bird, and at this time of year, I wake at exactly the right time to witness this spring wonder.  I decided to go out into the garden in my dressing gown for ten minutes or so, just so I could listen properly.  What a busy place it is at that time!

A few years ago our family took an early morning bird walk around the estate at Sissinghurst with the ranger.  I found it fascinating that he could identify so many species by their song.  I imagined that his sensory experience of the world is so different to mine, and wondered if he sort of paints a picture in his mind of where all these birds are and what they might be doing?  We kept a list of birds heard or spotted, and I think we got up to forty or fifty by the end of the walk.  I did retain the memory of chaffinch and chiff-chaff song, but I think I need to revise!

This morning, the soloist was the blackbird.  What a stunningly beautiful song it was!  He sang out from our peach tree, which is just starting to blossom, but his song outshone the tree.  There were trills and warbles, rising and falling notes, repeated refrains, pauses for the chorus…

The chorus was more amorphous – unseen in the cloisters of next door gardens and high-up in the balcony of woodland trees.  There were burbles of starlings and coos of collared doves and woodpigeons.  A percussion of house sparrows from the eaves of the house.  Every now and again the cockerel’s clarion call.  A surprisingly loud wren from the hedge!  A robin added definition.  And then I heard the arpeggios of a chaffinch.

My head turned this way and that, and I spotted a bat!  It was bouncing in wild circles, coming closer and closer, making me admire its silhouette against the pink sunrise.

I have an affinity with bats.  Perhaps inevitable, given that my name is Battye.

I don’t have any pictures of birds or bats, not being a wildlife photographer.  But I do have some pictures of buds.  Early buds.  Will these do?

Amelanchier was first to sing out.  It has has a pinkish-brown fuzz all along the top of its branches.  When you get up close, you see the first leaves, holding coiled cones of blossom buds, with a little bit of fuzzy down, blowing in the breeze.


Then crabapple, perhaps Malus ‘Royalty’?  The leaves burst forth first, and then there are deepest cherry pink blossoms a little later.  It looks like it is stretching its wings right now.


The peach tree is the first fruit tree to blossom: a wonderful bright pink.  The blossom is sparse, but twinkles like fairy lights across the garden.


It will soon be followed by quince, the softest little nests:


and pear, with its protective claws:


and apple, which has been wearing a windproof jacket and lots of woolly layers, but is starting to throw them off:


Here is a cherry, with its tight little buds, all neatly arranged:


And lilac, looking prehistoric; reptilian:


It is all happening with the early birds and early buds.  First the scales, and then the symphony.

What are your favourite early birds or early buds at this time of year?  Do you wake with the birds?  Are you inspired by the dawn chorus?



50 Comments Add yours

  1. This was an absolute lovely post. I felt I was there with you💞

    1. Ali says:

      How nice that would be, Lisa!

  2. elenawill says:

    I also love this time of year! I like seeing the fresh growth on trees so you can see the structure of the tree with just a bit of growth. Your photos captured that.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Elena, it is so nice to hear that.

  3. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I remember the dawn chorus from my time in England-so beautiful. You were clever to link it in with your early buds! Both birds and buds are blessings which I enjoyed visiting in your post.

    1. Ali says:

      Thanks Jane. And I remember the very raucous dawn chorus in Australia!

  4. Very very beautiful and eloquent post! As I scrolled down and admired the images, I wondered if those fruit blossoms might be in danger of a late frost – nipping at future fruit…

    Down here it’s interesting in the foothills or even the random highs and lows of valleys along the Andes… from two places I’ve lived in the remote ‘bosques’ there is a pre-dawn chorus of true early birds, and later the sun doesn’t crest the peaks until 9 in the morning.. when the sun hits the landscape, a second chorus – much greater than the earlier one – announces a second round of birding ops! some of those birds, btw, are very loud, like the chachalacas!

    1. Ali says:

      That is so interesting about a second dawn chorus! It just shows how important the sun is, and makes us all want to sing!
      Yes, there is a danger with some trees that they will get frosted. The apricot’s buds have been burnt this year by our Beast from the East, and last year our walnut was hit by a very late frost. But I think apples, pears, cherries and plums are generally ok. I do remember Stevie telling me that in vineyards they light fires, as the heat keeps the air circulating – it’s not the heat but the air circulation that prevents frost damage. If you’ve got good ventilation in your garden you’re less likely to get frost damage. Some places in the garden are known as ‘frost pockets’ – a solution is to open up an exit for the air to waft through.

      1. you are so multi talented and are surely a joy to those who spend time with you!

        i remember long ago in mississippi, i’d plant nasturtiums in the fall, then dash to ‘coddle them’ first with a tee-pee of sticks and then a blanket of dried leaves around the sticks – in order to save them from hard frosts/freezes… by ten the next morning they would be free of harm and could rejoice in their natural conditions again — and by springtime they were an explosion of color… if planted in the springtime, they had little time to mature properly and would barely start blooming before the hot temps made them stunted – and they suffered… ah, nasturtiums grow wild in some areas of the andes – such a lovely sight!!

      2. Ali says:

        Oh, I love nasturtiums. That’s so sweet, tucking them up in a duvet! Which I guess is why we leave old foliage on penstemons for as long as possible to protect the tender shoots at the base.

      3. A duvet! You deserve a word-smith award!

  5. annpappas says:

    Our dawn chorus used to be a lot louder 50 years ago but the noisiest are the Hadedas, listen to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSEGZrS2LIU We have a pair that nest and roost in our garden! Another call that carries is the Olive Thrush: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTYjKzykq6g, also the Cape Robin Chat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DI7o-wrDe3U I was in the garden just before 7am this morning but it is quite dark now.

    1. Ali says:

      Wow, that is loud! It just made my dogs bark!

      1. annpappas says:

        The other two calls I posted above are much gentler 🙂

  6. Susan Beard. says:

    Thank you Ali…nice information ..again.

    1. Ali says:

      You are welcome, Susan!

  7. Valonia says:

    Such a lovely post to read over breakfast, thank you. 🙂

    My favourite bird call is the kingfisher. It’s not really part of the dawn chorus, but it always sounds like it’s having fun even though it’s running late for a really important meeting! “Whee! Wheee! Whee!”

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Valonia! Now that I know that that is a kingfisher I will listen out for it. I know there are kingfishers around the lake at Sissinghurst. It does sound like a fun, excited call!

  8. Looks like Spring has found you!

  9. shazza says:

    When I’m on a walk down the fields I love it when I hear the warbling call of a curlew flying over. Reminds me of my chidhood growing up on a farm. Blackbirds are very melodic and I love their songs too. Wrens are very loud for such tiny birds. Great post. X

    1. Ali says:

      Curlews are very evocative. And yes, how can such a loud sound come from such a tiny bird?

  10. bcparkison says:

    Isn’t Spring just full of surprises. I love Spring green which comes in a thousand hues.Our bird population has gone down over the last few years. I really think it is caused by the overhead spraying which they,who ever they are, refuse to admit to doing.

    1. Ali says:

      Oh no! That’s so sad.

  11. Heyjude says:

    You have a wonderful way with words as well as photos. I was listening to your dawn chorus before moving on to the buds. I wish I had space for more trees, I love all the different blossom. My dawn chorus is usually the bulls and bullocks next door practising their notes – quite a rude awakening!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you for your generous words. That is very funny. I do love cows too, but I’m guessing they get quite frisky and insistent in spring?

      1. Heyjude says:

        They get very noisy!!

  12. Goodness your photos of buds are fantastic. I’ve just planted an amelanchier and now look forward to seeing the new buds.

    1. Ali says:

      It’s such a generous tree. Sort of floaty at this time of year.

  13. Clare Pooley says:

    Lovely post, Ali! I love bats too and am always pleased to see them. Our dawn chorus is loud now but I didn’t go out early in my dressing gown today as it was pouring with rain and a bit chilly! Many of our trees are at least a week behind yours though our crabapples now have tiny green leaves.

    1. Ali says:

      It’s decidedly damp in our garden too, this morning! I’m glad you enjoyed this, Clare. x

  14. Eliza Waters says:

    It’s a bit early for us (we’re still at the snowdrop stage!), but I love that blogging enables me to enjoy (vicariously) a really long, drawn out spring. I love the unfurling of leaves and flowers amid the chorus of birds. What could be better?

    1. Ali says:

      It is great, having the seasons stretched out, isn’t it? It increases the anticipation!

  15. pommepal says:

    How beautiful is the song of the blackbird. I have not heard it for so long(no blackbirds over here) but I can still here it in my memory. Our morning chorus is so different, especially the kookaburras and crows, but the magpie is the star over here I love their variety from clear musical splendour to chuckles and whispers. So good to see all the buds appearing, spring has arrived at last. 😄

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, the dawn chorus is quite different there isn’t it? I was in Sydney when the Dalai Lama visited and I remember he was quoted as saying ‘but what strange birds you have here!’ 😂

  16. A wonderful selection. I love Amelanchier at that stage, so tactile. Our silver pear is showing a fair amount of leaf break now …. blossom soon, hurray!

    1. Ali says:

      It is so tactile, isn’t it?

  17. A couple of years ago we spent a week in Canterbury where I heard one of the most beautiful bird songs ever up in a willow tree in the park along the River Stour. I recorded it with my phone and still listen to it every once in a while.
    At home here in Portland, I wake up to the song of a song sparrow every morning around 5 am all summer long. It’s one of my favorite moments of the day. Last week we also heard, but didn’t see, the black-headed grosbeak singing in the woods.

    1. Ali says:

      Oh wow! You were so close – we live 40 mins drive away from Canterbury!

      1. What a lovely place to live! We had such a fantastic time in your country and hope to come back some day. The things I most remember where the countless gardens and parks, pubs and the friendly people!

      2. Ali says:

        Ah, that’s lovely. X

  18. Lovely post, Ali; your description of the buds is pure poetry and in my mind, I’m enjoying the bird song too. Thank you for sharing your witness to spring’s unfolding.

    1. Ali says:

      Crikey, I was nervous about you reading this one! Hope I didn’t make too much of a hash of musical terms!

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