Early mornings in the bush can be magical. The birdsong begins while its still dark, alerting us to the impending sunrise. And then the world becomes eerily silent again as we all patiently wait for the coming of dawn. In my mind, I see this as nature’s ‘snooze’ button. ‘You should start thinking about the new day,’ they call. ‘But go on, sleep another twenty minutes.’ Ah, silence. But the persistent chirping and tweeting begins again with the first ray of sun above the horizon.
A week ago during evening drinks, our guests Carla and Simon, questioned what happens in that moment. Why does the world go silent as though someone pressed the mute button?
There are several theories explaining the purpose of the ‘dawn chorus’. Singing a sweet song can announce your place within your territory, deterring potential adversaries. On the other hand, it can also alert those in the market to newly available locations whose previous resident perished in the night.
A morning serenade can rekindle the connection with a mate. There’s no better way to pass the time when waiting for your food to emerge from the chilly night!
Dawn -rain free, of course- also provides optimal conditions for sending the message farther. Less wind and fewer background noises can allow the songs to be heard 20 times better than the same song at noon.
Following studies of the Ecuadoran Forest, researchers have also suggested that birds perched higher in the trees and/or with larger eyes – requiring less light to see – are often the first to strike up the chorus.
But none of these theories satisfy the question of the pause between tracks. Perhaps they are retuning their instruments, waiting to begin the next performance. For me, it’s my gentle reminder that I have 20 more minutes of sleep before being lured from my slumber to start a new day.