Successful Dawn Chorus event in Cairn Wood

Thursday 11th May 2023

​ On Sunday the 7th of May a group of enthusiastic local participants signed up to witness one of nature’s most beautiful phenomena - the Dawn Chorus.

A group of people in  a wood as the sun rises

The event, hosted by Ards and North Down Borough Council and lead by expert guide David Thompson, proved to be a huge success. Starting out at 5am the participants gathered in darkness to start their ascent into Cairn Wood, conditions were perfect on the morning.

Meandering slowly through the recently expanded woodland trails, participants were treated to a variety of different bird song and greeted with a stunning sunrise at the highest point of the woodland. Throughout the walk the group learned how special and historic Cairn Woodland habitat is, as David identified some key flora species, known as indicator species.

So why do birds sing so early in the morning and what is so special about this time of the year?

It is too dark early in the morning to forage and song birds are less likely to be spotted by predators so they use this opportunity to sing! However singing is very costly in terms of time and energy, so why do they do it? Early morning singing has a number of advantages:

  • It advertises fitness: It demonstrates that the singer is fit and strong and it has survived through the night. At this time of the year this can help to attract a potential mate.
  • Protects / claims territory: Male bird song is also a way of warning off other males. The competition for a mate can be intense, so his song lets rival males know that his area is claimed.
  • Less ambient noise: There is less ambient / artificial background noise early in the morning, meaning the birds do not have to compete to be heard and their song can be heard easier and carried further.

As the Dawn Chorus and our event at Cairn Wood drew to a close, we successfully recorded a total of 16 species including: Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Wren, Jay, Hooded Crow, Woodpigeon.

Take a mindful moment with this short video where you can clearly hear the birdsong (YouTube)

These recordings will now be passed onto CEDaR, the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, which helps to gather and record information about local wildlife and habitats here in Northern Ireland. Please visit Welcome | National Museums NI for further information.

Special thanks to David Thompson and to all the enthusiastic participants: we hope you enjoyed it