Loch Lomond NNR
It must be winter because it is time for counting roosting geese. And so I find myself up several hours before sunrise, having a dark breakfast, silently grumbling to myself that the RSPB had got the times wrong (they hadn’t), struggling to change the radio station (Vanessa Feltz and her drug-induced cheerfulness and 2 Cliff Richard songs before 6am is hard to stomach) and pulling on half my wardrobe and layers of waterproofs. So encumbered and walking like a teletubby I stumbled down a very muddy field spooking a herd of heifers that thundered around only showing their eyes in the torch light, was rattled by a brief shower, chilled by a lazy east wind and finally got into position with the barest hint of light on the horizon to show the day was beginning. OK, so what is going to happen?
Very quickly all the hassle was forgotten as I stood there waiting for the light and tuning in to the soundscape around me. Apart from the occasional crash from a raging timber harvesting monster on a distant ridge it was all the sound of nature.
It always amazes me how much bird activity there is in the dark. We might think that once it gets dark birds settle down, close their eyes and sleep till dawn but it isn’t like that at all. As I stood, there was bird noises all around. There seemed to be swarms of early rising snipe lifting, swirling around and heading off to feeding areas, each one sounding like a crepe shoe on a shiny floor. Teal were chiming across the floods, various ducks were doing variations on a quack – some loud and brash while others sounding more like a sleazy chuckle. Plaintive cries came from curlew and lapwing and 2 tawny owls started kicking off – a male hoo-hooing while a female replied with some kewicking. Most of the human world may have still be fast asleep but it was all go in the marsh bird world.
I could hear goose noise coming from further down on the marsh and once it was light enough they started gathering themselves with a team chorus before heading off for goose breakfast (grass fields). Over the next 30 minutes over 2000 geese of 3 species set off, mostly pink-footed but also some greylags and Canadas. And by 08:00 the geese had gone. But it is an ever changing marsh bird community and they were rapidly replaced by gulls, lapwing and a cormorant coming in.
For me, I had witnessed the noisy bird night and the rush hour of commuting birds, so now, job done, somewhere up the road a bacon sandwich and mug of coffee had my name on it, hopefully with a soundscape not involving Cliff Richard.