Listen in to the dawn chorus this Sunday

Jon Hawkins - Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

This Sunday could be one of the best chances, ever, to hear the beauty of the dawn chorus!

While we alternate between hot, dry weather and cool, VERY wet spells, the wildlife is still very vocal as we approach Dawn Chorus Day.

Taking place on the first Sunday of May, Dawn Chorus Day is the worldwide celebration of nature's greatest symphony, and it was started by the Wildlife Trusts over 40 years ago. Created in 1984, by Chris Baines and others in the Wildlife Trust then known as the Urban Wildlife Group (now Birmingham and Black Country), its first ever event was held at Moseley Bog. Since then, it has developed an international following, bringing people together from around the world, in a shared experience; something that seems all the more important to do when so many of the global population is in isolation right now.

With so little traffic on the roads or in the air, and so little background noise, this Sunday could be one of the best Dawn Chorus Days to appreciate the sounds of nature. As Dawn Chorus Day begins, what should we listen out for as the sun rises? Well, there will be chiffchaffs and willow warblers, blackbirds, blackcaps, blue tits and great tits, and many more, perhaps even nightingales.

People have been reporting in from their own back gardens already, practicing birdsong identification. The anticipation has been coupled with great excitement, as nest-box cameras reveal blue tits with clutches of up to ten eggs! In other cases, young birds have hatched, like moorhens, or are on the wing already, such as woodpigeons.

The cuckoos have arrived, with reports coming in from the Great Fen (from four different locations including Holme Fen and Ramsey Heights), as well as from elsewhere in Cambridgeshire, such as Buckden, Chatteris, Hauxton, Little Paxton, Needingworth and Yaxley. The Great Fen can provide some good views of cuckoos, with as many as ten birds being seen in a day. I am interested in all cuckoo records, from anywhere in the area (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire), to get a picture of how our concentration of ‘fen’ cuckoos compares with the distribution of cuckoos across the three counties. I would welcome your records, over the next few months, for as long as the cuckoos are with us this year.

I was due to lead a public walk at Woodwalton Fen this Sunday, but there is no reason why we can’t share what we can hear from our own gardens, or from a very early bit of daily exercise. I will be listening out while walking in my 'local patch' as part of my daily exercise from about 5.30am on Sunday morning. You are welcome to report what you hear and see from your own garden or ‘local patch’, wherever you are, even if you can only identify birds by sight. You can follow news of my discoveries on Great Fen twitter.

As well as making a list of what I see and what I hear, I will also be making a list of moths and bats that are on the wing on Saturday night, adding more wildlife to my list for Dawn Chorus Day.

There have not been that many moths about but the hawkmoths are appearing, such as lime hawkmoth and poplar hawkmoth. Other species on the wing include angle shades, blossom underwing, chocolate-tip, clouded drab, common quaker, hebrew character, lunar marbled brown, pebble prominent, powdered quaker, purple thorn, puss moth (see Great Fen twitter), red chestnut, small quaker, swallow prominent and white ermine.

For the time-being, listen to the willow warbler I encountered recently, and perhaps you will be inspired to listen out on Sunday morning and tell us what you heard?

Henry Stanier (Great Fen Monitoring & Research Officer)