Robert Morgan, NWT Reserves Officer, celebrates International Dawn Chorus Day by exploring the distinctive sounds of some of our most vocal birds.
Each year on the first Sunday of May, International Dawn Chorus day is held. This year it falls on May 2nd, so why not celebrate nature's symphony? Early risers may choose a walk to a nearby wood or park, or you could just wake at dawn and stand in your garden in pyjamas holding a cuppa, or just open your bedroom window.
Even in urban areas, before the drone of traffic drowns out the sweet sounds of the natural world, you may hear the rippling notes and whistles of the robin or the fluty verses of the blackbird. Its cousin, the song thrush, starts the dawn chorus with a loud confident tune, its verses repeated two or three times. If you are lucky you may have a blackcap's bubbly warble joining in. Then of course there is the little virtuoso wren, often being accompanied by the dunnock. With many other backing vocalists, it is well worth an early rise.
Here is a quick guide to the birds you may hear singing in your garden:
This ubiquitous and confident songster will perform from the top of a tree or rooftop. It has a rich repertoire, deep and full of whistles but melodic and mellow in tone. It is clear, loud and fluty. Many people will be familiar with its metallic pli-pli-pli alarm call when a cat gets too close.
Listen to a blackbird...
The robin's song is most people's favourite, sweet and cheery. It is higher pitched than the blackbird, but the tempo varies and can build in speed to trembling excitement. The song can vary in length but there are always pauses in between phrases.
Listen to a robin...
A very loud voice from such a small bird. The song is flurried and urgent, a short explosion of a song. It can often be seen singing low down and in the open.
Listen to a wren...
Does what it says on the tin. This small, non-descript warbler repeats its name constantly, although it is often hidden among the callow spring leaves of the trees.
Listen to a chiffchaff...
This speckled breasted bird has a beautiful, varied voice. It will repeat a phrase two or three times before replacing it with a new song pattern. It can also mimic other birds and is a real joy to listen to.
Listen to a song thrush...
Known best for its bouncy, two syllable song of 'teacher-teacher' that sounds like a squeaky bicycle pump. But this can be a tricky character, inventing all kinds of strange whistles, warbles and phrases. If you are not sure what that strangle calling bird is, plump for great tit.
Listen to a great tit...
A pleasant song that descends like a waterfall with a scratch at the end. It can be confused with a willow warbler, but it is harsher and rattles rather than warbles.
Listen to a chaffinch...
Robert Morgan is NWT Reserves Officer.
Header image: David Savory
Blackbird by Lydia Taylor; Robin, Song Thrush, Great Tit and Chaffinch by Elizabeth Dack; Wren by Tim Stringer; Chiffchaff by Tony Brooks