Listen to one of the best dawn choruses in Britain

To celebrate International Dawn Chorus Day on the 1st of May, here at BBC Earth we couldn’t resist the opportunity to set our alarm clocks for 3am, for the purpose of recording a very special and exclusive hour-long symphony performed at dawn

The location of this recording was the RSPB Minsmere reserve in Suffolk – home of BBC Two series Springwatch. Minsmere was carefully chosen for its coastal location, alongside its rich tapestry of oak woodlands and reed bed habitats. Here a nightingale’s fluty solo can be heard alongside bitterns booming in the ethereal mist of dawn, making it one of the most magnificent choruses to experience in Britain.

What can I hear?

Our recording, which was made last month, opens with a nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos). Unpaired males are thought to be singing at their best in the dead of night (between the hours of two and three in the morning) but nightingales are also known to be choristers of the dawn orchestra. We recorded this nightingale in full song at 4:30am, and if you listen closely you can here a distant tawny owl (Strix aluco) hooting, whose nightshift is drawing to a close.

Woodland favourites follow, such the familiar trill of a robin (Erithacus rubecula), the loud and emphatic voice of the wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) and the ethereal song of the blackbird (Turdus merula). These are mingled among the buttery and fluty notes of the blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), which is fondly known as "the northern nightingale".

Black headed gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) quarrel in the distance. Magnificent warbles from the wetlands specialists such as Cetti’s warbler (Cettia cetti) and reed warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), together with the distinctive fog horn "booming" call of a bittern (Botaurus stellaris) can then be heard, which occurred around the time the sun rose over the reed beds.

Comical "pings" from the gloriously moustached bearded tits (Panurus biarmicus), noisy ramblings of the sedge warblers (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), and the barking calls of barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) that fly overhead, all add to this rich soundscape.

Finally, we can hear possibly the rarest chorister of all. Right on the edge of its range, the Savi’s warbler (Locustella luscinioides) is a very occasional visitor to Britain. Its song is more of a mechanical rasp, and is a real treat to listen to. The male Savi’s warbler in this recording is thought to be one of the very few currently singing in Britain, and closes our chorus with a flourish.

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