A Diminishing Dawn Chorus
The tent was filled with a pre-dawn light. That cool blue that’s just light enough to encourage you to open your eyes. The type of light you usually miss when you’re asleep in your bed behind and the world is shut out against thick curtains.
It had been a long time since I’d been woken by this hue. It had been a long time since I’d stayed in a tent to be fair and I had forgotten the joys of being woken up by the elements.
A chill seeped in through the gaps in the grey material as it fluttered in the breeze and I wriggled further down into my sleeping bag in search of warmth. I certainly didn’t want to venture out into the cold of not-quite morning, so I closed my eyes and drifted between sleep and wake.
Alongside the cold, the breeze brought something else. A soft trilling noise, gentle but distinct, and coming from the trees we were camped under. Other trills joined in, soft piping noises, distinct calls and chatterings slowly building together. Rising with the steadily growing light.
There was no way I was going back to sleep now not when the tent was being flooded with a torrent of song. I lay and listen to the cacophony of voices, all with something to say, singing their songs and stories. It seeped from every tree, bush and hedge, until it reached it’s crescendo. Peaking as the sun rose and then melting back beneath the noise of everyday as other campers began rising, walking dogs, cooking breakfast and cars rattled over the bridge on the road.
The dawn chorus.
My favourite part of our recent camping trip to Scotland.
That growing noise in the early morning light was blissful to wake up to, and if I’m honest – something I don’t experience anywhere as near as much as I should. The comfort of my bed and the shell of our van keeps us away from the elements. It doesn’t let the light or the sound in the way the thin fibre of the tent did.
It was an entirely immersive experience.
I was there right amongst the morning battle cries of robins, the territorial trills of chaffinches, the come-hither whistles of wrens. I witnessed all the victory songs that announced their triumphs over the previous night, and I lost count of the calls, songs and species that danced through my ears.
There were calls I couldn’t identify. Anonymous artists amidst more well-known stars. It didn’t matter. I don’t think it would have mattered if I couldn’t have deciphered any of them, just to be witness to the spectacle seemed enough.
Bird song is something that we take for granted.
It’s something that just plays in the background as we go about our day to day business. It’s the ambient soundtrack to our lives that we have just somehow forgot to pay attention to. We assume that it’s carrying on as it was just because it’s always been there. The blackbirds have always serenaded us as we walk to work, and the robin has always commentated on our garden digging, and the starlings have always beatboxed as we hung the washing out. That’s just the way it is.
Possibly, because of this dangerous assumption we don’t notice that is actually diminishing. Because we take it for granted and we haven’t noticed that it’s beginning to fizzle out, that our hedgerows are quieter and that the dawn chorus, whilst still beautiful, doesn’t quite pack the punch it used to.
In their latest campaign, #LetNatureSing, the RSPB have highlighted the issues our wildlife is currently facing. And it’s not just the birds that are suffering. Around 56% of our UK wildlife is in decline, with a huge 165 of our species critically endangered. That’s a staggering amount. They’ve actually released a song into the charts to highlight how beautiful our bird song is. As well as raising awareness, it does a fantastic job at showcasing how beautiful bird song is – something, that if we don’t act now, we might lose entirely.
Can you imagine what your day to day life would sound like without that beautiful soundtrack. Would you even notice?
I can’t help but wonder; if more people spent the night in a tent and were woken by the song birds, would we be in this situation at all?