The silence of dawn

This morning I woke about half an hour before my alarm and lay in bed cherishing those last few minutes before I had to crawl out from under my duvet. As I lay there, with a cool breeze flowing in through the window and the light starting to seep around the edges of the blinds, I noticed how quiet it was outside. There was near silence, apart from the ever present background rumble of a distant main road.

The peace was momentarily punctuated by a singing wren but he soon stopped. In the far distance there was a carrion crow calling as it flew over the cattle fields and an occasional short argument between jackdaws in the nearby sycamores.

Where has the vibrant and energised dawn chorus gone from the months past? Where is the song thrush starting its calling from the darkness, where is the blackbird slowly joining in and where is the robin backing them up?

It’s a sign that already the breeding season has moved on.

There are several reasons why the dawn chorus stops at this time of year. Some birds have finished breeding so there’s no need sing; they don’t maintain a territory once their fledglings have gone. Others may still have chicks in the nest and don’t sing to avoid attracting predators. Also, once breeding is over, the adult birds moult which makes them more vulnerable to predators; singing would just increase the risk.

It did strike me, lying there in almost silence, almost without bird song, that one day this could be the norm, even at the height of spring. Despite the efforts of conservationists, including amateurs like me, birds populations are continuing to decline. Without greater action, by many more people and organisations, a vibrant and rapturous dawn chorus could be a thing of the past – already it is much diminished.

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