Dawn Chorus Walk (5th May 2024)

Here’s the walk leader, Graham’s views on the day.

On National Dawn Chorus Day 2024, eight DFBS members met up with two Dronfield Natural History Society members at 4.30am at Shillito Wood car park for our annual joint Dawn Chorus Walk.

 It was a perfect morning for listening for birdsong, not too cold and not a breath of wind as we congregated, trying not to disturb the overnight campervanners. The first bird we heard this year was a Pheasant, followed by the usual early callers Blackbird, Robin and Wren. I had the feeling it was going to be a good morning as we had added Cuckoo and Tawny Owl to the list before we had left the car park.

We crossed Fox Lane and made our way down to Blake Brook where we paused again and listened and heard a Domestic Chicken?? This was rather puzzling as there aren’t any farms near Shillito Wood – Maybe an escapee? As the light improved we made our way steadily down the valley with Foxlane Plantation and Ramsley Moor on our left and Blake Brook on our right. The list grew with Mallard, Wood Pigeon and Kestrel flying over and Tree Pipit, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and Great Tit all coming in to song. The warblers had also started singing with Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap being the first heard. There were a few muddy sections on the way down which we managed to skirt around and it was near here we spotted Red Deer tracks on the path.

 On reaching Car Road we turned right and made our way down to the first path into Smeekley Wood. Through the wood we heard and then saw a pair of Ravens overhead and also a Redstart singing. This ancient woodland provided us with a lovely spot to have our coffee break in amongst the Bluebells and Greater Stitchwort.

As we had our break the morning sun started to shine through the trees and we watched warblers and tits flitting about in the trees overhead.

After our stop we made our way back to Car Road on a path alongside Blake Brook. It is in Smeekley Wood that Blake Brook is joined by several other streams to form Millthorpe Brook further down the Cordwell Valley. As we walked along we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and more Blackcaps in song. Unfortunately along here, Malcolm, one of the Natural History members, tripped over a tree root but luckily wasn’t injured – just a bit shaken but quite muddied up. On reaching Car Road, Malcolm decided to make his way back to Shillito Wood via Fox Lane by turning left. The rest of us turned right up Car Road and passed Smeekley Farm where we saw Grey Wagtails, Goldfinch and Chaffinch.

We then took a path on the left which crosses Blake Brook over stepping stones and climbs steadily below Hewett’s Bank back towards Shillito Wood. The sun was shining brightly now, the birds were still singing and we managed to add Dunnock and Garden Warbler to the list. Just before we turned up to the car park we were entertained by a Tree Pipit flying numerous times into the air before descending in it’s distinctive style back to it’s perch. We spent a good ten minutes watching this, and all the time our Cuckoo was still calling on the other side of the valley, and still not a breath of wind.

 A brilliant end to a lovely morning.

We arrived back at the car park at the same time as Malcolm did, and he gave me an update on what he had seen and heard on his alternative route. They are listed below. 

Birds spotted by the group





Blue Tit


Tawny Owl

Carrion Crow


Mistle Thrush

Tree Pipit

Willow Warbler

Wood Pigeon


Great Tit

Song Thrush


Marsh Tit


Greylag Goose





Great Spotted Woodpecker

Grey Wagtail



Garden Warbler


Malcolm’s extras

Meadow Pipit






Pied Wagtail