Bird Watching (UK) - - Songbirds Dawn Chorus -

To many, the spring dawn cho­rus is a high­light of na­ture’s cal­en­dar. Dimly lit naked wood­lands, be­gin­ning to emerge from the icy grip of win­ter, come alive with the rich tre­ble of bird­song, like vivid color in a field of grey, bur­nished red and gold paint upon a can­vas of white. Fol­low­ing the time-worn or­der of ser­vice, the choir of Black­birds, thrushes and Robins are the first to pour out their sweet melody well be­fore the sun be­gins to peep over the hori­zon. As Wil­liam Ernest Hen­ley po­et­i­cally mused “the black­bird plays but a box­wood flute… for his song is all the joy of life”. With large eyes, rel­a­tive to their body size, this gang of in­ver­te­brate hunters for­age in the semi-dark tak­ing ad­van­tage of the worms and grubs close to the sur­face in those early hours. The next to strike up song, en­cour­aged by the thrushes to join the or­ches­tra, are tra­di­tion­ally the va­ri­ety of war­blers and Wrens, search­ing for slightly dozy in­sects on the wing, slowly awak­en­ing from their noc­tur­nal slum­ber. And yet, it is not the deep bur­bling tune of the Black­cap or the Wil­low War­bler’s de­scend­ing ditty (likened to a leaf fall­ing to the ground) that in­ter­rupts my con­nec­tion to the im­me­di­ate en­vi­ron­ment, but the low hoot of a Tawny Owl from a nearby tree. Hear­ing this, I am re­minded of the ear­li­ness of the hour. This pre­cious time and the joys that ac­com­pany it, be­fore the hu­man world awakes, is an op­por­tu­nity to sam­ple the sound­track our an­ces­tors must have grown used to, be­fore the in­ces­sant chat­ter of civil­i­sa­tion be­gan to dom­i­nate our ears. Warm rays of sun fall on my face as the soft dawn light starts to spread through the tall Ash and Sil­ver Birch on the op­po­site bank from where I am sat. I am wait­ing pa­tiently to hear the druid bird, the Manx, the lit­tle king. For those of you un­fa­mil­iar with an­cient Gaelic and es­o­teric folk names of an­i­mals (I don’t blame you if you are not) and per­haps ex­pect­ing the lit­tle king to be the bird that stirred Keats’ emo­tions to pen his Ode, I am afraid I must dis­ap­point. For me, it is not the Nightin­gale that is the true sig­nal of this pe­riod of sea­sonal re­joic­ing, but the hum­ble and diminu­tive Wren. Both male and fe­male birds sing a melody of bub­bly jum­bled notes, rich and fluid, fin­ish­ing with a flour­ish­ing trill. Dur­ing the breed­ing months some­times they will an­nounce their pres­ence up to 12 times a minute. The Chaffinch’s de­scend­ing song end­ing with a ‘wheat chew’ is one song we can all learn Star­lings, masters of song, take time out for a bath; but one keeps up the vo­cal per­for­mance


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