Nature’s bounty takes many forms. In spring one of those is the exuberant and mellifluous outpouring of bird song in the few hours after sunrise. (There is a similar performance at dusk, but by then the rest of the world has woken up and the birds have to compete with a lot more background noise.) In the early 1980s, to celebrate the dawn chorus, the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country designated the first Sunday in May International Dawn Chorus Day (IDCD).
From small beginnings in the West Midlands, at places including Mosely Bog, Sutton Park and Sandwell Valley, the event has spread to 80 countries in every continent, including Antarctica, although I’m not sure that penguins sing very well. Last year there were events in, amongst many other places, South Africa, California, Denmark and Spain.
Taking part is simple: rise just before the sun, make your way to a local woodland, park or other greenspace and wait for the birds to begin. The first to sing are likely to be robins, blackbirds and song thrushes, soon followed by wrens, dunnocks and chaffinches, as well as warblers like chiffchaffs and willow warblers.. If you can’t get out for any reason just wake up early and open your windows, something will be singing near you almost wherever you live.
The birds of course do not do this for our benefit. For them singing is part of their fight for survival. Males do most of the singing, both to demarcate their breeding territory and attract a mate, then to hold on to that vital patch so that they have exclusive rights to the food needed to feed and raise their young. Once they have nestlings the singing largely stops because to continue would attract predators. This is why the chorus is at its height for only a few weeks in spring. The summer is much quieter before the newly fledged youngsters start practising their own songs in the autumn.
The Wildlife Trust promotes IDCD to raise people’s awareness and understanding of the natural world, help them to enjoy their local wildlife, and generate support for the Trust’s work. You can find out if anything is happening near to you, register your own event, and find out much more by visiting the IDCD website at firstname.lastname@example.org .