Dawn Chorus is unbeatable says Simon King
Spring is here, and with it comes a natural spectacle that gets wildlife presenter Simon King exceptionally excited.
"How's this for a startling claim?" says Simon. "One of the most magnificent and beautiful natural events on earth occurs in Britain during the spring and early summer. It knocks spots off anything you could find in a tropical rainforest. It renders the plains of Africa humbled by comparison. The high Arctic doesn't hold a candle to it and the oceans aren't in the same league. So what is this event? Well, get up before first light sometime from late March to early July, get to your nearest patch of mixed woodland, close your eyes and listen. There it is. The astonishing, unsurpassed, skin-tingling, blood-warming liquid-gold of the Dawn Chorus," says Simon.
The dawn chorus occurs early morning throughout spring and summer, when myriad different bird species sing for mates and territory. And Simon believes that the UK's spirited serenade is pretty hard to beat. "I may not have visited every country in the world but I am lucky enough to have dipped my toe in many of the planet's most wildlife-rich areas. And from everything I've seen and heard, what our avian community lacks in physical splendour (kingfisher aside), it more than makes up for with its voice (kingfisher aside!). Even like for like, our ellbeejays (LBJ's : Little Brown Jobs), win hands down compared to their cousins oversees in the singing stakes. "Larks for example. There's a host of lark species in East Africa, many of which look very like our skylark. And yes, they do sing. But they all tend to do so in what is best described as a hesitant fashion. Its almost as though, somewhere in their dim and distant ancestral past, they've all heard a European skylark in full voice and thought to themselves "well, you can't compete with that" - so they don't really try. Wrens too. There are wren cousins in the USA and elsewhere but none of them come close to the belting, ear-ringing jingling song of our diminutive spirit of the woods. Song thrush, chaffinch, wood warbler, willow warbler, none would win a bird-world beauty pageant, until they open their beaks and then, there simply is no comparison," Simon observes.
This year International Dawn Chorus Day will take place on Sunday 3 May. Events will be held throughout the UK, and across the globe, to celebrate the joy of birdsong. There are countless ways to experience the dawn chorus, and a Wildlife Trust event is a fabulous place to start.
We are lucky in the UK to have the most spectacular singer of all according to Simon. When asked which bird has the sweetest song he said: "Of course it's a matter of taste, but for me there can be only one. It's a bird you're just as likely to hear heralding daybreak in a city centre or serenading the evening over a village green as you are in the deepest countryside. It certainly has nothing flamboyant about its looks (although the rather dandy black dress code and cheeky orange bill allude to a confident for a battle cry it is, a declaration of territorial ownership that makes it perfectly clear that the boss is in residence) rings out for the rest of the Spring and Summer."