International Dawn Chorus Day does not come along until the month of May. On the appointed morning, enthusiasts get up before the 5 am dawn to join led walks and to hear the birds wake up and begin their morning chorus. Of course, the birds are entirely unaware of this specific day, and anyone getting up for work or dog walk at a more reasonable hour at the moment may still enjoy this experience.
According to The Ecologist, a recent study found that “A heartbreaking 62 percent of adults rarely listen to birdsong” – so, leave your appliances at home, take the phones out of your ears and relish this rapturous slice of nature. In Spring, the male birds are resplendent in their best breeding plumage, having moulted all the old suits last autumn. They are now at their most competitive, often more visible than usual as they sit as high as they can get atop hedge and tree. Their aim is to attract a mate of course, but we can now take advantage of this and enjoy the sight almost as much as the target of this showing off.
If you’re not an enthusiast, or haven’t taken the time to listen before, all birdsong may seem alike. Take a few minutes to really listen and you will be rewarded by spotting many different songs. The birding fraternity often use phrases or descriptions to describe these songs, but here are a few of the easiest ones to try and recognise.
Early risers may hear the first song begin – often a blackbird. As one who eats mainly from the ground, this early boy probably does get the worm. As the woodland choirmaster, he also treats us to a truly beautiful, melody.
A cousin of the blackbird, the Song Thrush is easier to recognise, mainly because of what humans might label a speech impediment. Like an elderly relative, he tends to repeat himself several times!
A less common, but easy to recognise warbler is the Blackcap. This small bird with an obvious sooty head is known as the “Northern Nightingale” due to its melodic song. Personally, I shall always remember it by the description used by a birding friend who referred to its song as like a “blackbird on speed”!
One bird that shouldn’t need any introduction is the perennial favourite the red-breasted Robin. This cheeky chappy loves people but hates other robins, so you may only have one in your garden unless its large enough for more than one family. Robins are known for joining the gardener at work and even popping over the doorstep in search of a few crumbs. His song is beautiful and definitely one to open your ears to.
One song I initially confused with the robin’s is that of the wren. “Jenny Wren”, the “King of Birds”, is a legendary little brown bird, normally found around the lower levels of hedges. However, in the mating season, the male wren sits high and sings loud. They have what is possibly the loudest call in the woods, which I can now distinguish by the chirring sound in the middle of the song.
Finally, one of the easiest to recognise in your garden is the call of the Great Tit. “Old Mr Birder” will tell you this little fellow calls out “teacher, teacher”. This makes me think of a class know-it-all, with his hand always up first to answer the question asked of the class. Alternatively, I think it sounds like a squeaky bicycle pump. Listen for yourself and let me know what you think.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiH2VsH73g0