J D Swann on his unique dawn chorus walk in Southmere park
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“Thamesmead was the perfect place to do it”: J D Swann on his unique dawn chorus walk

To celebrate International Dawn Chorus Day 2023, Thamesmead-based 'ornithological investigator' (bird expert) J D Swann, hosted a unique dawn chorus walk which explored Southmere Park, the Ridgeway, the old golf course and the Thames Path.

Along the way participants listened to the awakening wildlife while the walk was livestreamed as part of a 24-hour broadcast. We caught up with J D Swann to find out about the inspiration for the walk and why Thamesmead is the perfect place to listen to the dawn chorus.

What makes a walk like this in Thamesmead so interesting?

"Thamesmead is full of wonderful wildlife and different habitats which I find very exciting. It’s a very special time to do it on International Dawn Chorus Day and Thamesmead was the perfect place to do it because we went to Southmere Lake where there a lots of water fowl, swan and geese making a lot of noise at that time. There are also lots of passerine birds. These are perching birds like black birds, robins and blue tits, all singing in the morning – especially as it’s spring time."

What makes nature walks effective for exploring communities?

"It’s a good way of finding parts of the environment that you’re not necessarily familiar with in your day-to-day. You might be getting in a car, going to work or going to pick up your kids, and you might not have time to actually look at the environment.

I’ve talked to people and actually people do really keep a close eye on their environments and tell me about different things they’ve seen – so people do take notice. But certainly with walks you can cover quite a large area in a small amount of time which I think is quite an effective way of talking about a place."

What was the plan for the walk?

"As it was a live streamed walk we didn’t really want people to talk too much. So very rarely for me, I didn’t talk too much either. It was really about giving it up to the birds to listen to – although I gave some context about where we were and what we were listening to.

This livestream was part of International Dawn Chorus day but it was actually part of a larger project from Stave Hill Ecological Park in Rotherhithe. They’re doing a project where people can wake up listening to the dawn chorus from throughout the world. So every hour you listen to the local dawn chorus from each place. And on International Dawn Chorus day, for the last hour people could listen to our livestream from Thamesmead!"

Why did you choose this route?

"It was very important for me that it was somewhere local that I could get to quite early because I had to start streaming as soon as I left the house. And then I wanted to go somewhere that was quite wild and away from any potential traffic. It’s a route that’s relatively quiet, and it also has quite a lot of trees, lakes and areas where you could actually hear particular birds, so it was quite specific."

You can listen to audio from the live stream here.

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