The Dawn Chorus
The alarm goes off every morning at 5:30. Not my work alarm but the first early call of the Robin replacing the silence left by the few steady Owl hoots at 3am. The Robins are overshadowed and outshone by the deeper, throatier call of the Blackbirds closer to the window, and then at 6 o'clock, near enough on the dot, the Wren starts, its machine gun cry covers everything around - impressive for a bird that looks like a feathered ping pong ball. Steadily as the sun comes up the winged world starts to warm up its vocal chords - Blue, Long-tailed and Great Tits and Goldfinches are the most common where I live but around the nurseries there are always different calls and songs to hear.
If you head to Corsham and Broadwood the Sparrows chatter-chatter in the hedge along the bottom of the garden, over at Grosvenor and Horfield there are Starlings whistling and clicking from the tops of the buildings, Keynsham has its own brave Robin who has been known to hop indoors to see what's going on and Weston is home to several Great Tits who call out "teacher, teacher". At the top of Atworth's thick cypress hedge are Blackbirds getting a good view of the surrounding area and over at Shirehampton Blue Tits cry shrilly in between the branches of the young trees in their forest garden.
This time of year is a perfect opportunity to release your inner twitcher as the song and chorus will be increasing in volume and length before the mid summer hush when the birds are nesting. It's not about being able to spot and name every creature around but to notice patterns and place where you hear the same calls. For example, whenever I take a group to the woods I ask everyone to walk in as quietly as they can and to listen carefully. Quickly the children notice the bird calls right around them. These calls are an alarm system that will echo through the trees as more birds respond to the alarm and pass on the message further and further. Steadily, as the woods become used to us being there the calls will settle and the birds will carry on with their lives. Next time you're in the woods, try and spot the point when the birds start calling and when they stop.
On May 7th it is International Dawn Chorus Day which celebrates this natural phenomenon. All over the world people will be getting up early to hear the birds so if you find yourself awake, go to a window, close your eyes and listen.