It’s a brave person that wakes me up before 6am. Yet I’ve found myself wide awake well before my alarm clock this last week or so, thanks to a couple of perky songbirds perched right outside my window and singing their hearts out.
Now that May is here, it’s a great time to enjoy the tuneful dawn chorus in gardens and woodlands up and down the country. At this time of year songbirds all over Britain are singing their loudest and longest in an effort to establish a territory, attract a mate and get the breeding season underway. So if you’re not sold on the idea of birdwatching, why not try a spot of bird listening instead?
For a beginner birdlistener like me the earlier you can get out there to hear the dawn chorus the better. In the very early morning, before the chorus is fully underway, you’ll be able to pick out individual birdsong, which makes identifying the bird species that it’s coming from much easier. As the chorus builds into a cacophony of noise it becomes more difficult to distinguish each song, but it’s a wonderful experience nonetheless.
Not only is the air alive with birdsong at this time of year, but many woodlands are filled with the intoxicating scent of bluebells too. A slightly delayed spring this year may mean these vibrantly blue spring flowers are appearing a couple of weeks later than usual. But, here are five of the best RSPB nature reserves to visit this month for birdsong and bluebells. Today, Sunday 5 May, 2013, is International Dawn Chorus Day, so check if there’s a special walk or event near you at www.idcd.info. Just don’t forget to set your alarm clock!
Gwenffrwd-Dinas, in Carmarthenshire, Wales
This is an alder and oak woodland reserve that is one of the RSPB’s real gems in Wales. The fast-flowing river, rugged trails and rural landscape make you feel a million miles away from everyday life.
Coombes Valley in Staffordshire
Coombes Valley celebrated its 50th birthday last year, so it’s a well-established nature reserve with beautiful oak woodlands to stroll through. Flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers are just some of the bird species you can expect to hear and see.
Tudeley Woods, Kent
Look carefully at the carpet of bluebells as you walk through Tudeley Woods, it’s peppered with primroses and orchids. Chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps are some of the birds to listen out for in the trees above.
Wood of Cree in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
This is the largest ancient woodland in southern Scotland. It’s a great place to see and hear willow tits, which are a declining bird species and a real treat to hear and see. To enjoy the best of the bluebells here take the 1-mile woodland trail at the north end of the reserve.
Highnam Woods, Gloucestershire
Bluebells and primroses bring gorgeous spring colour to the ancient woodland at Highnam. Nightingales breed here and have a particularly beautiful song, or look and listen out for marsh tits, bullfinches, wrens, song thrushes and spotted flycatchers.