5 of the best spots to hear the dawn chorus in Hertfordshire

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 April 2020

Sedge warbler at dawn (c) Mark Hamblin

Sedge warbler at dawn (c) Mark Hamblin

Mark Hamblin

It’s one of nature’s wonders – the dawn chorus as spring arrives.

With early spring comes the first birdsong, and it won’t be long until a full-blown symphony heralds a new day. For this concert though, you have to get up early.

Even if you are no early riser it’s well worth setting your alarm. Just before the morning sun comes over the horizon, the dawn chorus begins as male birds call out to mark their territories and
to encourage prospective mates. It’s thought birdsong at dawn is more effective than later in the day because the sound carries further in the still air, which means more females will hear it. The earliest risers will be up and singing from 4am.

From gardens and parks across our urban spaces to woodlands, wetlands and meadows, the dawn chorus happens everywhere around us. Seek out a quiet patch – ideally undisturbed of traffic – close your eyes and listen!

NOTE: With the current restrictions put in place to combat coronavirus, allowing for just one hour of outside exercise and with strict social distancing, please consider if this is suitable for you. Visting the following locations may only be possible to those who live locally to these spots. However, with the reduced amount of people and traffic during the lockdown, could we begin to hear birdsong from our own gardens?

Tewin Orchard, near Welwyn GC, AL6 0LZ

What you might hear: Woodland birds such as blackbird, tits, robin, wren and dunnock. Listen too for the rhythmic drumming of great spotted woodpeckers and the beautiful call of yellowhammers.

Tewin Orchard is a remnant of times gone by, a small traditional village orchard with a range of local fruit varieties. Today, the orchard is a beautiful nature reserve and a great place for wildlife. A clan of badgers calls it home and the sweet apple and pear blossoms and juicy fruits attract wildlife all year round.

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Thorley Wash, near Bishop’s Stortford CM22 75E

What you might hear: Warblers such as sedge warbler, Cetti’s warbler, blackcap and whitethroat as well as reed bunting and wren. Listen out for the distinctive call of the cuckoo and see if you can spot a barn owl flying low over the fen.

Thorley Wash is a paradise for bird watchers in any season. Snipe visit in winter as do siskins and redpolls, but it’s in spring when the nature reserve comes alive with birdsong. Sedge warblers, reed buntings and Cetti’s warblers are thriving in the scrubby margins of this fen habitat. Listen carefully and you might hear a grasshopper warbler’s distinctive song – easily confused with the insect which gives the bird its name. If you’re lucky, you might spot the elusive water vole emerging from its underground burrow to feed on sedges on the banks of the ditches.

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Aldbury Nowers, near Tring, HP23 5QW

What you might hear: Lesser whitethroat, garden warbler, blackcap, song thrush, red kite and buzzard. You might be lucky and hear the cronking call of a raven.

This beautiful reserve in the Chiltern hills is well known among butterfly enthusiasts who visit on a hot summer’s day, but it is no less attractive in spring. Come early in the day and you could hear lesser whitethroat, song thrush, blackcap and its lesser known relative, the garden warbler – which, despite its name, is not a garden bird. Lift your gaze upwards and spot red kites and buzzards soaring over the hills – their call a high-pitched ‘weee-ooo ee oo ee oo’. Stay for the day and enjoy the busy flutter of brimstone, holly blue and orange-tip butterflies in the warming spring sun.

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Balls Wood, near Hertford, SG13 7PW

What you might hear: Woodland birds such as nuthatch, chiffchaff, song thrush, gold crest, chaffinch and different species of tits including coal tit. Hear a great spotted woodpecker’s drumming echoing across the woodland.

Balls Wood Nature Reserve is a beautiful woodland boasting open and sunny rides, which abound with butterflies, birds and wildflowers. Listen for the rhythmic whistle of nuthatches, the sweet song of a song thrush and the constant drumming of a great spotted woodpecker. You might also hear the high-pitched fleeting song of our smallest bird, the gold crest.

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Frogmore Meadows, near Rickmansworth WD3 6ER

What you might hear: Whitethroat, chiffchaff, song thrush, stock dove, blackcap, robin and wren.

This beautiful wildflower meadow is awash with butterflies and bees in summer and alive with birdsong in spring. From whitethroats and chiffchaffs to blackcaps, robins and wrens, the atmospheric dawn chorus fills the air. Beautiful song thrushes perform their evocative songs and you might hear a stock dove calling out for a mate. u

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