This recording was made at dusk, on the edge of the Bight, a shallow area of tidal water on the inland side of Dawlish Warren NNR. The 23-minute long clip covers a period from just after sunset until twilight – the original was several minutes longer, however I have removed sections where railway/aircraft/road noise became a distraction.
As the recording begins, the sun has just dropped below the horizon, and a Blackbird is still singing in the scrubby bushes on top of the sand dunes. Although the air is perfectly still, recent bad weather has left the sea quite rough, and the pounding of the waves on the far side of the dunes forms a constant bass rumble. As Herring Gulls stream overhead on their way out to sea, small groups of Curlew and Redshank begin to drop into a roosting site about 100m away along the water’s edge. Just after the 7 minute mark, one of the Brent Goose flocks that winter on the Exe Estuary flies in and lands in the distance.
As the birds continue to arrive, and the rising tide shrinks the roosting space available, occasional scuffles break out. Eventually, at 12m 39s, something causes most of the roosting birds to take to the air and circle before settling again. Peace returns until 17m 40s, when a Blackbird begins to give an alarm call, almost certainly in response to an approaching hawk. The hawk (from its size probably a Sparrowhawk, although Peregrine seems more likely in that habitat) actually flies past the microphones at 18m 21s, the rush of its wings just audible above the surf. I was sitting on a driftwood log just behind the microphones, and the bird passed by at eye level about 2m away, just a grey ghost in the twilight. Although the birds don’t take flight again the presence of the hawk seems to unnerve them, and both the Redshank and Curlew are very vocal for the last few minutes of the recording.
If you’re wondering what the quiet sizzling and popping noises are right through the clip, it’s not the microphones acting up in the cold, damp air (the aluminium tripod was running with condensation when I finished recording) but the tide creeping in across the mud. By the time I packed up and left the water was only a few inches from the feet of the tripod!