On Sunday morning I went to Cathkin Park to hear the dawn chorus. May and June are the best times to hear this amazing daily concert, as birds are trying to find partners for the mating season while at the same time defending their territory from other hopefuls! Cathkin Park is an especially magical place to hear the chorus, as for nearly 100 years it was the home of Third Lanark Football Club, one of the founding members of the Scottish Football League. It is quite spooky to stand on the pitch and hear the birds singing out from the deserted terraces, imagining the voices of the thousands of fans who would have cheered from the exact same spot some 70 years ago.
I got to the park around 4:00am, which is about an hour before the sun rises. In a 2-hour walk around the park I heard at least 12 different birds, with a few surprised foxes being the only other creatures about at that hour. It is good to check the weather forecast before heading out, since it is very difficult to hear birdsong when the wind is blowing. Thankfully the conditions were pretty good, as the previous night’s wind and rain had disappeared. I felt very lucky to be able to forget about the chaos of the world for a few hours, and just to lose myself in the beautiful birdsong.
On my walk around I made lots of small recordings, which I have stitched together into a five-minute audio track. It’s best to listen with headphones, because then you can really immerse yourself in the sounds of the outdoors.
This is what you can hear:
Right at the beginning you can hear a plucky wren churring away. These tiny birds make so much noise! In the background there is a song thrush, singing its heart out in short, repetitive phrases.
The little barks you first hear here are the jackdaw, a smaller cousin of the crow. You can hear them squabbling at 1.52.
A crow speaks up during the jackdaws’ arguing, maybe to tell them to pipe down!
This is recorded from a different part of the park, and you can really hear the finches getting stuck into their songs. It is hard to pick out individual birds here, but you can hear both goldfinches and chaffinches giving it their all. The deeper notes you hear in the background are from a stately blackbird, who is often the first one to start singing at dawn.
This rattling sound is the magpie, large flocks of which kept swooping over the pitch.
Many of you are probably familiar with the plump woodpigeon, just starting to get involved here. Woodpigeons are very funny to watch as they are extremely clumsy and make a lot of noise when taking off!
At some point during the walk I also heard the faint rattle of a mistle thrush, a bird which is quite a common sight in Cathkin Park. The wind must have swallowed its call, which is a shame because the mistle thrush sounds just like the old football rattles that would have been whirring around the terraces in the 1960s.
Would you like to listen to the dawn chorus? My advice would be to go soon, as the birdsong is best before the middle of June. You don’t have to go to the park at that time in morning: you could also just open your bedroom window and have a good listen. And if you want to record what you hear you don’t need any fancy equipment: I just used the sound recorder on my phone. To read a bit more about the dawn chorus and to get some top tips, visit the RSPB’s website, which also has a great Birdsong ID feature to help you identify what you heard. Click here to visit the RSPB website.