To catch the dawn chorus, you'll need to be in position about an hour before sunrise – this is when birds are least likely to be spotted by predators, and they seize the opportunity to make their presence known.
Find somewhere that’s relatively quiet and home to lots of woodland birds. This will give you the best chance of hearing a range of species raise their voices, claiming dominion over their territories and singing loudly to attract potential mates. The Wildlife Trust’s Swanwick Lakes nature reserve near Fareham is a lovely, tranquil place to sit and listen to this avian orchestra.
Ideal days for the chorus are those with the best weather. As well as being more comfortable for you, dry, clear and calm mornings mean you’ll be able to hear the performers better. Thanks to the often still weather at dawn, and lack of noise from traffic and other activity, bird song carries up to 20 times further than at midday.
Blackbirds, robins and nightingales are the earliest risers and usually the first birds you’ll hear. They have relatively large eyes compared to their body size so can start foraging earlier than other species.
They’re soon joined by wrens and summer migrants such as chiffchaffs and blackcaps. They can’t forage as early as the first singers because of their smaller eyes, but as soon as it’s light enough they’re up and about, hunting for insects and singing at full volume.
Finally chaffinches, goldfinches and sparrows round off the performance. As seed eaters, they need brighter light before they can begin foraging.
Once the sun has risen, it’s too risky for songbirds to be advertising their position to predators, so our feathered friends quieten down and settle into the day after a job well done.