The birds are singing!
by Janice Ross
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To celebrate International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 3 May.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a diary, a phone and a large envelope containing a birthday invitation. The invitation should contain the information in the ‘Assembly’, Steps 1 to 3.
- Have available a sound clip of a dawn chorus and the means to play it during the assembly. An example is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6_LYIdYxz4 (4.23 minutes long)
- More information about International Dawn Chorus Day is available at: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/dawn-chorus-day
- Explain to the children that you are very excited this morning because you have received what looks like an invitation.
Open the envelope and read out the beginning of the invitation.
Dear (your name)
You are invited to Chris Baines’ birthday party.
- Express how amazed and thrilled you are to receive the invitation and ask the children whether they know who Chris Baines is.
Explain that he is a well-known environmentalist and TV presenter.
- Carry on reading out the invitation.
When: 3 May
Pretend to look in your diary and tell the children excitedly that you’re free then.
Where: Moseley Bog, near Birmingham
Explain that Moseley Bog is a local nature reserve that is on the site of an old millpond and is made up of wet and dry woodland.
Time: 4 a.m.
Question the time and then read it out again. Ask the children whether they know what 4 a.m. means and explain that it means 4 o’clock in the morning! It will still be dark. You’ll have to get out of bed in the middle of the night. Surely there must be some mistake! He must mean 4 p.m., so that the party happens in the afternoon.
- Suggest that you’d better ring Chris’ secretary to check the time.
Pick up the phone and pretend to dial a number.
Pretend to speak to a secretary on the phone and say something along the following lines.
I’ve just received an invitation to Chris Baines’ party, but may I check that the time is correct? It says that I should be there for 4 a.m. . . . Yes, I see . . . So, it really does start at 4 a.m. . . . And I need to bring a warm coat and wellies? . . . But you’ll be providing flasks of hot coffee . . . Well, that’s certainly different, but it does sound like fun! . . . OK, thank you. I’ll see you then.
- Ask the children for suggestions as to what kind of party it might be.
Listen to a range of responses.
- Explain that in 1984, Chris Baines actually sent out an invitation like this to his friends. His birthday plan was to have all his guests listen to the dawn chorus together.
- Ask the children whether they know what the dawn chorus is.
Explain that it is the singing of many birds before dawn each day.
Play some of the YouTube video ‘Birdsong Dawn Chorus England 26th May 2013’.
- Ask the children the following questions.
- How many different songs did you hear?
Listen to a range of responses.
- Why do you think that the birds sing at this time of the morning?
Explain that it’s all to do with territory and raising chicks. To give more detail, puff your chest out and pretend to be a bird, saying, ‘I have a lovely spot here with easy access to food. And it’s all mine!’
- When does this birdsong happen?
Explain that it all happens about an hour before sunrise. At this time of day, it is too dark for the birds to search for food, but also too dark for them to be spotted by predators. There is less background noise, too, so the air is still and sound carries for a greater distance.
- Explain that there is a sequence to the dawn chorus. Robins, blackbirds and thrushes start first, which may be because they have biggish eyes to see in the dark and because they like to look for worms. After a while, all the other birds join in.
Time for reflection
Ask the children to close their eyes while they listen to more of the dawn chorus clip.
Play some more of the YouTube video ‘Birdsong Dawn Chorus England 26th May 2013’.
Ask them to see whether they can differentiate between the sounds that different birds make.
Ask the children why they think that Chris Baines chose to celebrate his birthday with his friends in this way.
Ask the children to share how they think Chris’ guests would have felt. How would the children feel if they went to a party like this one?
Chris Baines’ early morning birthday idea caught on. The first one was in Birmingham, but now the idea has spread across the UK and beyond. More than 80 countries now take part in International Dawn Chorus Day. On that May morning, thousands of people get up early to listen to the birds’ early morning wake-up call. Woods are the best place to hear a variety of sounds, but you could just listen from your bedroom window.
Thank you for the beauty of nature.
Thank you for the joy of birdsong.
Please help us to take notice of all the beautiful things that you have created for us to enjoy.
‘All things bright and beautiful’ (Come and Praise, 3)