I woke up last Saturday at the ungodly hour of 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep again.
Lying there, mind racing, I suddenly remembered that I still had the last leg of my dawn breeding bird survey to do, so I dragged myself into an upright position and got dressed.
It was too early even for Treacle the dog who simply lifted her head as I made for the door, then went back to sleep.
As I left the house, the sun hadn’t come up yet, but the sky was clear and I could see dozens of bats flying around the rooftops.
I don’t think they were catching insects, but seemed to be chasing one another.
By the time I reached the starting point for my annual survey, in Philiphaugh Estate, the sun was just poking its head above the distant Eildons.
Bird song at this time of year at dawn is quite prolific and it is quite a challenge to try and separate out the different species, but it does get easier with practice.
It really is a magical time of day and as I climbed higher, the views to the east over Selkirk became more spectacular as the sun’s early rays bounced off the thin layers of mist and haze in the valley below.
The low angle of the sun makes it a great time of day for photography and my camera was kept busy as well as my pencil on the survey sheet.
I had just completed the last section and was about to put the form away when I heard a bird song I hadn’t heard in this area before.
It was a rattling sort of warble, ending with a flourish of musical notes coming from the top of a huge oak tree.
I made my way to its base and looked up hoping to catch a glimpse of the bird just to be sure.
Half-an-hour later, I still hadn’t seen it in the tangle of leafy branches and my neck was breaking, not to mention my back.
I was just about to leave when it suddenly broke cover, flew to an adjacent Scots pine and gave a quick burst of its song.
It only remained for a few seconds, but just long enough for me to get a good view of a handsome male redstart in his best breeding plumage.
A nice ending to my breeding bird survey for the year and a just reward for my early start.
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