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  • Writer's pictureAilie Brown

Beautiful Birdsong

The 5th of May is Dawn Chorus Day this year and is fast approaching. Early May is when the chorus of songbirds has reached its peak. Both resident species and migrant species are all singing. Most of these species have yet to start building a nest and singing their songs in order to attract a mate and compete with other males to see whom is the best.

A mistle thrush on top of a tree.
Mistle thrush can be heard singing as early as January from the tallest tree (Jane Hope)

Resident birds such as Blackbirds, Robins and sparrows are already sitting on eggs, they have started a bit earlier, finding the top nesting spots and in some cases, have returned to a successful site from the year before. You have even heard Robins singing over Winter. By the middle of April, our resident birds are enjoying the early bright mornings and have perfected their tunes. Male Chaffinches are competing and chasing off intruders from their patch. Blue tits are building mossy nests in nest boxes, and Blackbirds are sitting still in Ivy hedges.

A Willow Warbler singing.
Willow Warbler singing (Jane Hope)

As the day’s become a bit warmer, you have your windows open at night, and are awakened by the dawn chorus. Although some species sing throughout the day, the first light is the best time for birds to sing, as they day light appears and the day becomes warmer, priorities change to finding food and potentially building a nest.

Late April and May brings the arrival of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Tree pipits and the influx of our resident birds that go towards the coast in the winter, such as Skylarks, Yellowhammer, Meadow pipit. With all these species here in Speyside, picking out individual songs can be very difficult. It can be very noisy!

A curlew calling in flight.
A Curlew calling is one of best sounds of Spring arriving (Jane Hope)

So how do you learn bird song?? First of all, I think that learning bird song can be very difficult but extremely rewarding. By hearing something first, you know where to look for it. And sometimes, it’s not that you know what it is, but you know what it isn’t. Learning our resident birds, and especially the most common ones is the best way to start. I gave myself 5 target species over early spring and then went on to learn one a week over one summer. Although by August, it was rather quiet. By the next spring, I had relearned all the birdsong again, but I was surprised how much I remembered.

Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch, House Sparrow, and Wren. These species I see the most, in my garden, my local patch, urban areas, rural areas, everywhere really! So, I started by watching each bird and listening to its song. I wrote notes, drew the bird song, and used my Colins bird app to reiterate the song. By learning these ‘common’ species, I was able to then almost put them down to background noise while listening out for new ones.

A pied Flycatcher in a tree.
Pied Flycatcher, one our secretive species in Speyside, found by their calls (Roy Atkins)

Birdsong and calls are one of the main ways I work as a guide. I find it as a valuable tool when trying to identify a bird or even searching for a specific species. We will be running a Birdsong and Calls Masterclass on the 18-19 of May, if you’d like to learn how to identify the bird’s song you are hearing in your garden, or learn techniques to help you improve your skills, have a look at this Masterclass. The Dawn Chorus is on the 5th of May this year, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to get out and enjoy the nature’s own symphony.

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