Dawn Chorus: rise with the lark!
In late April and early May sunrise is at about 06.00, not too early to be up and about for most folk. There’s a great opportunity now to witness the dawn chorus, at a reasonable hour (from about 05.30). Leave it for another month and you are talking 04.15 or earlier!
It’s not really dark at 05.30, though it can be very cool before the sun’s rays get up in the sky, but this is all part of the dawn chorus experience. You can of course enjoy the chorus from the comfort of your bedroom, just open a window to increase the volume, and perhaps get up and brew a hot cup of tea or coffee.
The chorus usually begins with the lazy and gentle trickling song of a Robin or two, delivered without hurry, perhaps from the cover of a prominent shrub or tree.
Next up, it’s usually the Blackbird: its song has a lovely fluty tone, richer than a Robins and a little more lively. The serenity, sense of control and melodic rich notes make it my personal favourite song bird. No wonder The Beatles no less, (ironically writing a song about race relations in 1960s America) incorporated a recording of the Blackbird in the eponymous tune, from the Beatles ‘White Album’.
Once the Song Thrushes have started up, there’s no chance of falling back to sleep with the intense, rich and urgent sounding song, one in which staccoto phrases of the song are repeated twice or three times in quick succession, just to reinforce the effect. You may well have Blackcaps singing: a warbler and summer visitor from Africa that delivers its rich and hurried notes from cover, usually unseen.
New singers from the same species cast join in along with others, the echo of singing Blackbirds and Robins, map out audibly traced territories: the chorus is building!
Why Do Birds Sing?
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. What seems like a pleasant and relaxed thing to do is really very practical and has a sense of urgency about it.
Why the early start?
The cool air and lack of background 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, like us, must get an early feed and break their fast.. they’ve earned it!
Bird song resources:
The Little Book of Garden Bird Songs, ( and the Little Book of the Dawn Chorus) from a series of sound books that present 12 familiar species at the touch of a button combined with beautiful illustrations. Suitable for everybody, age 3 up to adults.