Set your alarm for Sunday to sample a dawn marvel

A dunnock on-song....

A dunnock on-song.... - Credit: Archant

Sunday May 6 2018 marks International Dawn Chorus Day. Why not get up with the larks to hear nature's symphony?, says Diane Church of the RSPB.

At this time of year you will know when morning is approaching – as much by sound as by sight - as the dawn chorus gets under way.

All of us have complimentary tickets to this early summer extravaganza when male birds show off their talents to find a mate by singing their loudest and, in many cases, most beautiful song. Why not tune in this weekend? You'll never hear anything so melodious, uplifting and… well… loud… in nature at any other time of year in

this country.

Singing is hard work, so the most prominent singers are usually the fittest, best-fed males. And in many cases, once a female has been serenaded and successfully secured as a mate, the male will be less enthusiastic as his work is done. By the end of June or beginning of July, this cacophony of bird song will be over for another year, so make the most of it.

If you've ever wondered why it's a dawn chorus rather than, say, a lunchtime chorus, which would be a much more suitable time of day for those of you who struggle to get out of bed in the morning, it's quite simple really. It's too dark to forage for food: insects are still asleep, so the time is much better spent trying to attract a mate. Also, there's less background noise early in the day, so their song can carry up to twenty times as far.

This Sunday - May 6 2018 - marks International Dawn Chorus Day, the perfect opportunity to experience the dawn chorus in its richest possible sense. Getting up for 5am may seem like madness, but I assure you it will be worth the effort.

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Among the earliest birds to rise are skylarks, song thrushes, robins and blackbirds, followed by wrens and warblers. No one's exactly sure why the smaller birds start singing a bit later, but it could be that they're sensitive to the coldness of dawn.

The full cacophony of the dawn chorus peaks from about half an hour before dawn until about to half an hour after sunrise. So wrap up warm and get outdoors where you can immerse yourself in this most wondrous of natural experiences.

If you need a bit of an incentive or would like to learn a little more about the bird song you're hearing, we are running dawn chorus events at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen and RSPB Minsmere - see below - with experts who can guide you through the song.

Even if you're not up for a front-row seat with nature, stepping outside any time up to about 6am, should still give you a seat in the stalls.

And for the rest of you, who protect your last moments in bed before the day's demands kick in, why not sleep with your bedroom window open? You'll be amazed what you can hear while still snuggled under the duvet.

One last option. If for some reason the thought of surfacing early in the day is just too much, even as a one-off experience, well there's always another chorus at dusk. It's quieter than dawn and more of a quartet than an orchestra, but some birds - like tree sparrows and blue tits – seem to prefer to sing at this time. But what a perfect background tune to listen to at the end of a long day.

Sounds of spring (and breakfast) at RSPB Minsmere

Sundays May 6 and May 20, 7.30am

Price (including breakfast): RSPB members £20, non-member adults £25, RSPB Wildlife Explorers £14, non-member children £16.80. Reserve entry fees payable for any non members staying after the walk.

From booming bitterns, warbling warblers to the delight of the nightingale's song, our guides will take you on a sound tour you won't forget. Suitable for beginners, these walks are a great opportunity to learn birdsong. The walk will end with a bacon or sausage sandwich, or vegetarian equivalent, and a tea or filter coffee in the cafe.

Booking essential online:

Breakfast with the birds at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen

Sunday May 13, 8.30-10am

Price: Adult member £10, Child member £5, Adult non-member £12, Child non-member £6

Wake up with the birds! This is a family dawn chorus event, aimed at children aged 5-12 years. Join us at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen and immerse yourselves in our woodland alive with the sounds of spring. Walk woodland footpaths, listening and learning (through a range of fun sensory activities) the calls of our woodland birds along the way. Relax surrounded by the

sounds of the birds singing and enjoy a campfire breakfast. Everyone will have the opportunity to make toast, tea and hot chocolate - a truly wild breakfast with the birds!

Booking essential on: 01603 715191