Set your Alarm for the Dawn Chorus

Between March and the beginning of July, in the twilight before sun rise, beautiful bird songs fill the air of forests, hedgerows, parks and gardens throughout Ireland. The annual celebration of the Dawn Chorus this year is on 17th May when the general public join bird enthusiasts across the country to listen to The Dawn Chorus at its mid summer peak.

Bird calls can be heard at various times through the day. The sounds that create the internationally celebrated Dawn Chorus are different, these are called bird song. Before the sun rises, birds cannot search for food as it is too dark. Instead they defend and mark out their territory, and attract female mates as it is the males who generally sing their unique bird songs. In parts of Ireland with a bit of careful listening you can pick out many different bird songs from a whole chorus.

It is a great way of introducing children to nature and the natural world around us and requires minimal effort to experience it. Summer campers will often find they have a beautiful rude awakening to the Dawn Chorus. The more beautiful looking birds tend to have the simple bird song where as the dull shy birds have more complicated beautiful sounding bird song. If you want to do some preparation there are many resources available online to familiarise yourself with the different bird songs. There is also, a large section on the RTE website by Derek Mooney - see links below.

You could also make a trip to your local library to gets some books on Irish birds.

So this year on 17th May (2009), make it a family occasion. Check out Bird Watch Ireland for events that are happening in your neck of the woods and enjoy this wonderful gift of nature. Mature oak woodlands are by far the best places to experience the Dawn Chorus but wonderful sounds can also be heard in city gardens.

If you don’t feel you can manage to get up and out, set the alarm, crawl across the room to open the window, gather the rest of the family together and return to bed to listen to what’s happening outside your brick walls. If you want to hear what’s singing in other parts of the country listen to the annual live broadcast on RTE Radio 1. With live broadcasts through the night until dawn you can hear the spectacle snuggled up in bed.

Remember the dawn chorus happens every day so you can experience it any morning between March and beginning of July.

First published 4kids Summer 2009