3rd May 2020
Every day of the year has some sort of event or occasion dedicated to it and today is no exception. Taking place on the first Sunday of May, International Dawn Chorus Day is the worldwide celebration of nature’s greatest symphony. I have to confess that I did not get up at four this morning to listen to the birds, but I have heard it many times and it is a glorious sound.
In fact, the Dawn Chorus Day began in Birmingham in the 1980s to celebrate the sound of urban birds and it is now celebrated in over 80 countries around the world. Sadly, this does not include those cities where levels of pollution, herbicide and pesticide use and lack of suitable habitat means there are no birds at all.
So far this year I have recorded 13 species of bird in my garden; these include, robins and wood pigeons, goldfinches and even a pair of wrens, which are nesting in my tiny hedge! And of course, I have my sparrows whose antics keep distracting me from work!
The presence of Goldfinches is one of those good news wildlife stories. These distinctive birds, with their red faces and a yellow flash on their wings, are now seen regularly in our towns and cities. They were one of those species that, like so many, were in decline throughout the latter half of the 20th century, probably caused by herbicide use. They are now recovering well and love the feeders in our gardens.
The wren is one of our smallest birds and is hard to spot despite being fairly common. When you do see one look for its distinctive upright tail! They feed on the spiders and insects they find in the small spaces inside bushes and under hedges and have the scientific name Troglodytes, which means cave dweller. A pair has nested in my garden for the first time this year and they love my pile of brushwood and compost where there is an abundance of food for them.
In these stressful times bird watching is one of the most fun and relaxing things you can. Although we should not be travelling out to the marshes or the woods to visits nature reserves, our gardens and local greenspaces can be just as rewarding.
Finally, on this special day for birds I am reminded of the famous book “Silent Spring” written by the environmental scientist and activist Rachel Carson in 1962. She devoted her research to the impact of pesticides, especially DDT, on bird populations in America but the book also talks about the impact of these chemicals on our own health. Virtually everything she wrote about then, still applies today.
The title of her book was inspired by the poet John Keats who wrote the line…..
“The sedge is wither’d from the lake, and no birds sing.”
Thanks to her work and the work of so many campaigners over the decades we can celebrate Dawn Chorus Day.