Male Blackbird (c. Oran O’Sullivan)

 With sunrise officially at about 06.10 at the moment, there’s a great opportunity to witness the dawn chorus, at a reasonable hour (from about 05.30). Leave it for another month and you are talking 04.30 or earlier!

 It’s not really dark at 05.30, though its much colder than you might expect. You can of course enjoy the chorus from the comfort of your bed and open a window to increase the volume, or get up and brew a hot tea or coffee.  Right now, the chorus begins with the lazy and gentle trickling song of a Robin, delivered without hurry, perhaps from the cover of a prominent shrub or tree.

Robin (c.Liam Kane)

 Next up, its often the Blackbird, its song has a lovely fluty tone, richer than a Robins and a little more lively, though  not in a hurry at all .  The serenity, sense of control and melodic rich notes make it my personal favourite song bird: no wonder The Beatles then, when writing a song about race relations in 1960s America, incorporated actual birdsong into the eponymous, Blackbird, from the White Album.

The Song Thrushes have started up, no chance of falling back to sleep now with the contrasting, rich and urgent sounding song,  one in which phrases of the song are repeated twice or three times in quick succession. 

New singers from the same species are joining in and the echo of  singing Blackbirds and Robins, map out audible territories: the chorus is building!

The concept of territory goes a long way towards explaining why birds sing.  Male birds sing to warn other males to keep out of their territory and the song is also an advertisement to attract a passing female.  Birds require a territory in order to have enough space and feeding opportunities to build a nest and raise young.

Song Thrush collecting food for young. (c.Oran O’Sullivan)

The cool air and lack of noise around dawn means that bird song travels further. Also, while it is still dark, or only barely light, it is not bright enough to search for food. An hour or so after the chorus takes hold, it can go surprisingly quiet, as if somebody switched off the music: this is because the early morning songsters must get an early feed and break their fast.. they’ve earned it!