On Sunday 5th May 2019 the world celebrates International Dawn Chorus Day, in celebration of nature, wildlife, and the incredible variety of birdsong in the world.
Traditionally falling on the first Sunday of May, its origins apparently began in the 1980s when environmentalist Chris Baines asked everyone to attend his birthday party at 4am so people could enjoy the dawn chorus with him. The first event was held in 1984 at Moseley Bog, Birmingham, by the Urban Wildlife Trust, and these days over eighty countries have participated in the Day.
We are fortunate here in the Lake District to be surrounded by an abundance of wondrous landscapes and wildlife. So fill up a Tumbler Flask with hot coffee or tea, and maybe bring some nourishing soup in a Soup Flask: here’s four Lake District spots to listen to the Dawn Chorus.
1. Barkbooth Lot, Crosthwaite
A relatively obscure and “hidden” spot in the Lake District, Barkbooth Lot is a gorgeous little gem of nature and wildlife. We’ve featured the area before in our Cumbrian Bluebell Walks post, so not only can you listen to the exquisite birdsong of the area, you can also explore the woodlands full of bluebells.
Get there nice and early to enjoy the chorus from Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Green Woodpeckers, Treecreepers, Mistle Thrushes, Redpolls, and Chiffchaffs.
2. Sticklebarn, Great Langdale
The epic Great Langdale valley is known for its hulking, craggy fells, picturesque tarns, and Herdwicks galore, but perhaps less-known is the abundance of birds these mountains house. The first visitor to the valley in spring is usually the Chiffchaff, famously named onomatopoeically, from around mid-March. The Ring Ouzel settles on the higher fells where it likes the more remote and craggy slopes. You can hear its “tac-tac” call later in March. From mid-April you’ll also hear the distinctive call of the Cuckoo. Make sure to also listen out for Wheatears, Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers, Willow Warblers, Swifts, Swallows, and Grey Wagtails. To get an idea of what each bird's call sounds like, just check out British Birdsongs.
3. Naddle Woods, Haweswater
When it comes to birdlife around Haweswater, the area may be more well-known for being the site of England’s last Golden Eagle, sadly no more since 2016. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of birds around the lake and woodland courtesy of the work of the local RSPB. Spring sees the return of birdsong from Wheatears, Ring Ouzels, Redstarts, and Pied Flycatchers. In fact, there is a Dawn Chorus event being hosted by RSPB Haweswater on Sunday 5th May 2019; why not go and experience the incredible dawn chorus set in some of the Lake District’s finest scenery?
4. Dubwath Silver Meadows, Bassenthwaite Lake
Just off the northwestern foot of Bassenthwaite Lake is a wetland nature reserve known as Dubwath Silver Meadows. It’s an example of a “fen” habitat, permanently saturated in water and acts as a sponge, soaking up sediments and nutrients that may contimate Bassenthwaite Lake. The nature reserve is teeming with wildlife, and if you arrive early one spring morning you’ll hear the birdsong of the Chaffinch, the Chiffchaff, the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, the Swallow, the Willow Warbler, and lots more.
There are loads more places to experience the Dawn Chorus in the Lake District and wider Cumbria, and we hope this post inspires you to brave the dreaded early morning start so you can experience one of nature’s greatest wonders. Just make sure you carry some hot caffeination to keep you going!