Sunday 3rd May is the International Dawn Chorus Day. The birds that utter their sounds in the early morning make the dawn chorus. This day is marked to enjoy this nature’s daily wonder and thereby understand importance of the natural world and its conservation.
On this day people can experience the dawn chorus either in their home garden or at another habitat nearby. Listening in the early morning you can learn what birds mix their sounds in to the dawn chorus this time of the year. Also, you can enjoy melody and pleasant nature of the sounds of these birds. We are in the tropics can experience the birds that breed in the area this time of the year would be the first to come to sing in the chorus. If you wish, you are welcome to share your experience of dawn chorus that you will hear on the day, in this blog by emailing your relevant notes, etc.
Enjoy the dawn chorus in your area on the Sunday 3rd May.
Below is a part of recording of dawn chorus that I made at Nilgala forest a few years ago.
In this chorus the following birds are present (roughly in order of they appear along the sound track): Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Coppersmith Barbet (in background), Marshall’s Iora, Common Iora, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Black-capped Bulbul (in background), Black-headed Oriole, White-rumped Shama (in background), Grey-breasted Prinia, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Cinereous (Grey/Great) Tit and Brown-headed Barbet (in background).
There is an active heronry at Diyawanna Oya near the Parliament, where Black-headed Ibises, Black-crowned Night Herons, Little Egrets, Intermediate Egrets, Night Herons and Little Cormorants are still continue nesting. Breeding activities of waterbirds at this heronry has been going on for a several months now. Before Sinhala New Year my friend Plaitha, a wildlife photographer, and I paid our second visit to this heronry mainly to photograph some of the birds in their breeding plumage.
Black-headed Ibises, Black-crowned Night Herons, Little Egrets, Intermediate Egrets and Night Herons at the heronry.
While Palitha was photographing the birds I tried to capture sound at this heronry. Though passing traffic was quite loud I managed to get some sound recordings of the nesting site. Track below features some selected parts of the recordings.
Palitha had also captured the sound recordist at work.
The sound of Koha ( Asian Koel, Eudynamys scolopaceus) begins to come to our notice somewhere in the period of February to April in every year. It is generally believed that this distinctive sound connects with oncoming Sinhala New Year in April. Hence the author of this sound is popularly known as Avurudu Koha in Sinhala. The familiar sound of the Koha is the song of male bird, which the males sing to attract their females for breeding.
Asian Koel, male
Asian Koel, female
The song of Koha:
The Koha is one of the few birds in our country (amongst a few other cuckoos), which does not build its own nest for laying eggs. Instead, the females lay eggs in nests of crows. Nests of both House Crows (Corvus splendens) and Large-billed Crows (a.k.a. Jungle or Black Crows) (Corvus macrorhynchos) are victimized by the Koels . So, the male Koels begin to sing when the crows start building their nests in an area. The nesting season of the crows is around April and so is the time for male Koels to sing for their mates to inform to get ready for egg laying.
It’s now Sinhala Avurudu season and so we have started to hear the sound of AvuruduKoha from various parts of the country.
On the 3rd of May, the International Dawn Chorus Day, I visited a scrubland about 20 min. from my home. It is a scrubland with a few tall trees. When I visit the habitat it was around 5.30 am and was still dark, and there was a small drizzle. Due to the rain birds were a little slow to start. A pair of Common Iora was the first to start singing. Brown-headed Barbet and Red-vented Bulbuls also started in the background.
When the rain blew away the birds started their usual chorus which led by Common Iora, White-browed Bulbul, Brown-headed Barbet and Red-vented Bulbuls. A Common Palm Squirrel was calling throughout.
Today, International Dawn Chorus Day, I planned to visit a wetland to experience the dawn chorus there, while my daughter and wife agreed listen to the dawn chorus at our home garden. I reached Talangama tank by 5.10 am while it was still dark about 20min before to the dawn of the day. When I arrived there a male Oriental Magpie-Robin had already started to sing its beautiful songs from a tree along the tank bund. Soon an Asian Koel started to call and then a White-bellied Drongo began its repertoire, while shrub frogs vocalizing from plants in the area nearby. Those birds started to sing well before dawn as this is their breeding season.
Before the dawn waterbirds that vocalized was only a pair of White-breasted Waterhen while the magpie-robin was still singing its powerful and melodious song. It was also lightning and thundering that time.
Dawn was around 6.30am when other birds at the wetland began to fill the chorus with their sounds. White-breasted Kingfisher, White-breasted Waterhens and an egret were amongst others in the dawn chorus.
Soon after the dawn the chorus became significantly rich with bird sounds. More individuals of most of the birds mentioned earlier contributed to the dawn chorus. There was also a Purple Heron calling while it was leaving the night roost (heard between 33 sec. and 36 sec. in the sound track below).
At dawn egrets and herons were roosting at their regular night roost began to flying out while Asian Openbills and Black-headed Ibises were still remaining at the roost. Mainly the Black-crowned night Herons were heard while they were leaving the roost.
Common Kingfisher, a pair of Little Grebes and Red-wattled Lapwing heard at other places.
There were other birds, such as Greater Coucals, Green-imperial pigeons, Spotted Doves, White-browed Bulbuls, Red-vented Bulbuls, Common Mynahs, Black-headed Orioles, etc. from trees on bank of the tank or from surrounding home gardens participated in the morning bird chorus. Heavy rain began by 6.30 am following the lightning and thundering that continued from predawn.
As it expects from having an International Dawn Chorus Day it indicates profusely to the listeners the presence of a rich birdlife at wetlands and adjoining habitats in suburban areas, and also it signifies the importance of preserving these habitats.
Deepal Warakagoda, 3rd May 2015
Dawn chorus at home garden
In the end of April my father told me that the International dawn chorus day is on 3rd of May. He told that he is going to Talangama Tank to listen to the dawn chorus there on that day and asked whether my mother and me can do the same at our home garden. So, today my mother and me went in to the garden at 5.20 a.m. equipped with an audio recorder which my father set up for me yesterday. At first there was only insects and shrub frogs calling and it was still dark. Dawn was around 6.30 a.m. and the first one to call was the Asian Koel.
Then the other birds began to call, Red-vented Bulbul and Yellow-billed Babbler joined the koel.
The Oriental White-eye joined the chorus with singing its rather soft, undulating and melodious song. And the Red-vented Bulbul continued to sing with more of its different types of songs.
And there were two Red-vented Bulbuls singing from their own territories while the other birds continue their chorus. The finest songbird in our home gardens the Oriental Magpie-Robin participated only with a single ‘peee..’ note in the background.
As the dawn chorus continues more birds joined in. Such as Common Tailorbird, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Black-headed Oriole, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Greater Coucal, and the Rose-ringed Parakeet flew over.
Two Common Tailorbirds joined in the chorus with their very loud calls. The Brown-headed Barbet came in to the chorus with its fast, loud song while the parakeets flew over and thunder rumbled in the sky.
While I was recording my mother wrote down the birds which called. At about 6.20 a.m. we had to stop our listening session, because the rain started to pour down. The dawn chorus day is meant to listen and enjoy the chorus of birds in the morning, so actually my mother and me enjoyed it very much today. Also it was an opportunity to learn about the bird calls further.