In keeping with the modern culture of designated days for this, and special days for that, Sunday 2nd May 2010 was international dawn chorus day. The event received a fair amount of coverage on the television & radio, but with my own shameful "rise & shine" moment taking place at 7.45am, well after dawn, I missed the whole spectacle.
One of the species that was often talked about in reverential terms as being a peerless soloist in this early morning symphony of sounds is the Nightingale - Luscinia megarhynchos.
Until I started visiting Grazalema in the southwestern corner of Andalucía a few years ago I had never seen a Nightingale, let alone heard one. However on a visit to the area this April I had the opportunity to photograph & record the song of this iconic little bird in the country garden of Clive & Sue from Wildside Holidays.
Strangely non-descript for such a legendary beast, slightly larger than a Robin but lacking the christmas card red breast, this particular LBW (“little brown job” in the lingo of my bird watching friends), performed from the branches of some low fruit trees set in a sheltered valley peppered by numerous old water mills. Surrounded by an environment of grazing meadows and low density woodland scrub, this peaceful valley seems like an ideal haven for the species.
The Nightingale is a summer visitor to Britain, chiefly in the southeast, arriving in April and singing through into May & early June, before leaving our shores again at the end of the summer. This highly secretive bird is declining in Britain as a breeding species, but for those lucky enough to have one in their patch the famous song can be heard both during the day and at night.
Of course the dawn chorus is not just confined to a single date on the calendar and can be enjoyed by the early riser throughout the spring, so why not give it a try!