Posted by: Ross Gardner | February 12, 2013


Sunrise from an Essex Wood.  Ross Gardner 2013.

Sunrise from an Essex Wood. Ross Gardner 2013.

A faultless, star-pricked night sky; stillness stirred by the slightest of eddies in the air to gently rattle the browned  hornbeam leaves still on their branches; the frosted crispness beneath the feet.  The promise of clear winter sunrise.

I have to admit I am not naturally one for 5:30 am starts, but it is something that has to be done every once in a while.  I travelled over to small wood I know, bordered by fields and hedges, with larger wooded areas visible in the distance and with the added variety of a small expanse of reed-bed close by.  At 6:30 it was still night dark, deliciously cold and frosty, every footfall landing with a satisfying crunch.  A Tawny Owl shrieked from within the wood, the final throes of the hours of darkness.  Soon after hearing it the haze of dawn began to leak upwards from the horizon, allowing me to make out a Woodcock as it flew across the small field and into the wood.

The expectant stillness of daybreak is a unique, wonderful time.  Soon it was rippled by the easy notes of a Robin singing, to be answered by another further off in the distance.  The Robin has the wood to itself for a few minutes, before other sounds familiar to the day rise with the growing light; a Blue Tit churring from the nearby thorn, the tentative trill of a Wren from further afield.  I stood at the edge of the wood, waiting for the sunrise and relishing the sounds of the waking wood.

The dawn light now filled the fields, penetrating into the wood, even still with the sun below the horizon.  It is a light with a kind of grainy quality, but was well met by the creatures of the day – the birds that were beginning to fill the branches with the sounds of fresh endeavour.  Waking too was the reed-bed nearby, a clamour of clucking Moorhen and squealing Water Rail, the latter for the most part so elusive, but in the quiet of early morning more inclined to forage away from the dense cover of the reeds.

Then quite suddenly the horizon is a glow with a bloom of rich yellow light and in few moments the edge of the fiery-orange sphere comes into view.  In an instant the hazy dawn light is flushed from the landscape as the vibrancy of the sunrise surges across the land.  Glorious and quite quickly forgotten by the small birds that set about their scouring of the treetops as if the previous night had never even passed.

Feeding Water Rail.  Ross Gardner 2013

Feeding Water Rail. Ross Gardner 2013

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