All together now

South East London,
A wood.
25 people stood in a huddle. All of us strangers.

Of the 25 strangers, some are experts; they are the ones with torches and binoculars. Others are experienced and come bearing flasks of coffee and notebooks. And a few, like me, are hapless romantics who don't own walking boots, and are ambitious to feel connected to something other than cement streets, Google and public transport. 

Light starts to creep through the slumbering darkness of the wood. The birds stir. Overhead, the Robin spies our group. His red breast puffs with great suspicion and he trills a warning riff.  The blackbird is a little more accommodating and throws back his head to bellow his brave new world song.  A bicycle pump like sound shoots through the trees.  It's the Great Tit's strong but humorous call, urging you to wake up and start the day. Who can resist that call to action; we head deeper into the woods.

When birds wake up, we are told, their first instinct is to sing a hello that then freefalls into a song about their territory and other headlines news.  To my ear, this conversation sounds like a celebration. An improvisation around the themes of love, life and nesting.  I'm a singer. My instinct is to also sing.  But I'd describe my waking up routine as a series of groans followed by a set of withering looks to my alarm clock based around the thought of, 'you've got to be kidding'.  Hearing the joy in the woods, the genuine celebration of a new day, I feel that my waking up routine just doesn't cut it anymore.

As the promise of the new day emerges, more birds join the Dawn Chorus. Woodpeckers, magpies, thrushes, woodpigeons, chiffchaffs and jackdaws add their melodies.  The bird's symphony evolves.  A low flying Kestrel emerges from an opening in the woods, hot on the heels of new possibilities.  The sun warms up the wood.  As it shifts through the trees, it pauses over a bluebell grove where a song thrush solos.

2 hours later, dawn has been and gone and the day ahead beckons.
The 25 strangers arrive at where they began.
Not so much strangers anymore. 
All with different thoughts of the same experience.
All filled with wonder.

We go our separate ways.
Some go to work.
Others go to school.
I head back home, determined to take a lesson from the birds.  Tomorrow morning, I'll find a brighter thought to begin the day when that alarm clock calls me to action. 


The Dawn Chorus Walk, Sydenham Hill Woods
Walk Guide, Daniel Greenwood.
Organised by London Wildlife Trust
Part of International Dawn Chorus Day

To find out more about:
International Dawn Chorus Day, click here
For details about London Wildlife Trust, go here
Get to know Sydenham Hill Woods by clicking here

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