Short Sunrise Songs

I’ve written four short songs this last year or so, all inspired by sunrise walks.


Moonfinches chirruping high in the leatherwood. 
Green moon gathers her veils around her face. 
Drifts of swallows dance and glide on leafy breezes, reeling farewells.

One day when I was up in Swarland, there was a big moon and perched in a tree in front of the moon were some finches. I could tell they were finches because of the shape of their beaks, but they were somewhat silhouetted, so I couldn’t tell what sort, so I called them moonfinches and wrote a song about them. It was also a day when there were many swallows gathering on the telephone wires ready to say farewell for another year. We bought a teensy leatherwood tree from a botanic garden and it’s planted in the garden. One day it will be tall, I dare say and the moonfinches will chirrup there. The music takes the form of a round and it’s proven very popular with Swarland Voices, who sang the world premiere of it and have sung it several times since. Here they are singing it in Brinkburn Priory with some images of birds and the moon.

Moonfinches performed by Swarland Voices

Hoolets In The Woods

Sunrise stepping out
In the first September scarf,
My ear is caught
By hoolets in the woods.
I ponder on all the owls I’ve known:
And steer moon-wards.

There are few things more thrilling when stepping out of the house in the darkish sunrise mornings than hearing a tawny owl hooting nearby. Some mornings they’re all along the route. When we first moved here, my next door neighbour Ted, taught me that the local word for tawny owls was hoolets. In recent months, I’ve had two close encounters with tawny owls, which are very hard to spot, but easier to hear. The first was on a moonish, clear morning when there’d been lots of owls along the way in the distance, but I was suddenly stopped in my tracks by the sound of one directly above my head. I scanned the trees overhead in vain, in an attempt to see it, when suddenly out it flew, directly at me, then swooped away, I guess it decided I was too big to carry off for its breakfast. On another similar morning, I saw two of them in a tree after hearing them close by – so hard to see before the leaves are off the trees, but once they took off it was a glorious thrill.

Hoolets In The Woods with pictures of the Swarland Loop

Venus Bench

The drizzly Venus Bench 
snared a five-starred burnished leaf overnight, 
brought in on magical breezes.
It's waiting in the greyness,
for its first November natterer,
when a bat,
a small bat,
a sunrise-dancing bat,
a bat over-staying into warm autumn,
a bat flutters by,
with whispered greetings for a jubilant day!

On November 1st 2022, I went for my sunrise walk setting off in an anti-clockwise direction on my Swarland Loop circuit. When I got to the bench near Rochester Drive, I saw that it had a horse chestnut leaf on it. I looked about me and saw no horse chestnut trees, so deemed it a magical leaf. As I pondered on this enchantment, a bat flew by. It was a small bat. This reminded me of a day in 2020 when my pal Connor and I sat at opposite ends of this bench and chatted about his Dad Greg’s career in the RAF. I’d been commissioned by Connor’s Mum, Ann to write a song for Greg’s retirement. There’d been a plan but as with all plans in 2020 there was no implementing it, so instead we happened upon each other while out walking and sat on this bench for a Greg chat. While we chatted in the gloaming, a bat flew by. It was a small bat. Also, a planet or somesuch appeared brightly in the sky and we pondered on what it was. I later found out that it was Venus. So…back to November 1st 2022, I resolved to write a song about this bench on this day and to do so before the day was finished, because it happened to be Connor’s birthday, and what a happy thing it would be to write a song for Connor on his birthday about the bench and the bat and the magical leaf and Venus, so that’s what I did, and took a page of music (just tune and words) round to his house and posted it through the letter box. I resolved that one day I would make it into a choir song or something. On November 1st 2023, that’s what I did, and here it is!

Venus Bench

Hare Dazzle

Sunrise dander. 
Then embraced, motionless, beguiled by distant hare, sunrise dandering.
Closer, and still closer, those singular ears must surely hear my breathing?
I fancy our eye-catch will send you haring? 
But no, you magically dander on by, into the sunrise, dazzling.

A song about a magical close encounter with a hare on June 20th 2022 at sunrise. The images include plenty of a beautiful felt hare made for me by my pal Yvonne Steward. There’s also much use of the word “dander” in the song – a word which always makes me think of my pal Richard.

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