Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Dawn Chorus

The highest intellects, like the tops of mountains, are the first to catch and to reflect the dawn.

Thomas Babington Macaulay
Essays contributed to the Edinburgh Review (1843) Vol 2.

Macaulay was not speaking of the dawn chorus when he wrote those words. However, if they are to be applied to all living things, then, around here the blackbirds take first prize.

I am uncertain as to when they started. Nonetheless, for the past week I have been aware of a growing clamour around the hour of 6 a.m. I am sure it is only the blackbirds at present, although the robins may well be contributing. As I have sat here in my garret in Lincolnshire, their singing has pierced through the cold darkness of the early February mornings, bringing with it the promise of light, new growth and fresh opportunities.

The dawn chorus, being the signal that winter is retreating, is usually associated with spring. Male songbirds sing to identify their territories and to attract potential females. The singing reaches its greatest intensity around 4 a.m. in May, stopping as soon as it is light enough to look for food. There is actually an annual celebration of the world’s oldest wake-up call, with the International Dawn Chorus Day this year being on May 7th.

So, with the song of the local blackbirds being heard this week, the first in February, has come a question. Have they started earlier than usual this year? I am uncertain as to the answer. All I can say is that the beautiful sound brings with it an uplifting of my spirit and I am delighted to welcome its presence.

Now, has anyone heard a cuckoo?

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