And then the Hobbies came

There is no getting away from it. If you want to be up before the birds at this time of year, there is no getting up at all. The best strategy is to stay up through the night and do your best to catch up on sleep the next day, before, as can happen quite often in May, you repeat the process the next night.

This May Day weekend we ran a slight variant. Friday night we travelled east through, our destination a spot historically favoured by nightingales near Westleton, Suffolk. Arriving later than we hoped at just before 4.00am the trees were already full of song. Microphones set we withdrew to further along the path and watched red deer graze on the short cropped grass as the birdsong continued all around us.

Dawn chorus, Westleton Heath, Suffolk, 0420hrs, 5th May 2018.
Schoeps CCM 4Lg and CCM8Lg, M/S to Sound Devices 633

The rest of Saturday was spent on the Suffolk coast. We didn’t find a Dartford Warbler but had wonderful views of stone curlews, whitethroats and marsh harriers around Minsmere and Dunwich Heath. we also found some newts in the shallows of the reed pond edges and watched common lizards basking in the sun between the leaf litter and browned stems of a stand of last year’s bracken.


Returning home late on Saturday evening almost 24 hours to the minute from setting off, we took a break on Sunday before heading out again late in the evening, this time with the Suffolk Fens in our sights. We dropped in on the Ouse Washes and surveyed fields still flooded by April’s rain but alive with waterbirds calling in the dark before rolling into Lakenheath in the early hours. We took a steady walk out to the viewpoint that overlooks Joist Fen at tbe bottom end of the reserve under cloudless starlight skies and set out our microphones.

Joist Fen, Lakenheath, Suffolk, 0328hrs, 7th May 2018.
Schoeps CCM 4Lg and CCM8Lg, M/S to Sound Devices 633

By 4.30am light was starting to show in the sky and with each passing minute forms of light and dark began to emerge. The reeds in front of us slowly revealed themselves to be dressed in a coat of cotton white mist that passed through the meres and out across the fields to the east.

Joist Fen, Lakenheath, Suffolk, 0436hrs, 7th May 2018.
Schoeps CCM 4Lg and CCM8Lg, M/S to Sound Devices 633

And then the Hobbies came, three of them, brown sickles slicing through the mist, twisting one way then the other, chasing visually imperceptible prey with high speed aerobatics that took the breath away and put the seal on another weekend immersed in the natural world – a parallel universe that continues to it’s own rhythms, above, below and all around us.

Joist Fen, Lakenheath, Suffolk, 0505hrs, 7th May 2018.
Schoeps CCM 4Lg and CCM8Lg, M/S to Sound Devices 633

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