Earth sings at Dawn

Dawn unfurls as a scroll

‘Day’s most sacred hour’ unfurls.

Earth awakes to a new day with spring birdsong – voices of hope for our beautiful, yet so fragile planet.

The Song of the Earth

A light in sound, a sound-like power in light, 
Rhythm in all thought, and joyance everywhere— 
Methinks, it should have been impossible 
Not to love all things in a world so filled; 
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air 
Is Music slumbering on her instrument
.’

From ‘The Eolian Harp’ by S.T.Coleridge

The air is still,  the sky cloudless as light appears in the east.  Earth has been ‘slumbering on her instrument’, but now it’s waking with the music of birdsong. It’s a delicious moment of stillness and quietness, with the noisy human world hushed. With the cool freshness of the morning, an unspoiled day lies ahead full of a new music, of life and possibilities. I’m an audience of one, waiting for the ‘orchestra’ to start tuning up.

repeated photos of dawn

As the sky lightens, the ‘concert’ begins pianissimo like a Mahler symphony in the first movement. Then a medley of growing elation of song, full of excitement, possibilities and promise fills the air. Sunlight is being distilled into music. The emotions expressed in this beautiful symphony are nature’s morning homage to the sun and, ultimately, a hymn of praise to the Creator. I feel unworthy to be here, an intruder in this, the birds’ special moment. Life is starting with their song. But I’m glad to have made the effort to be here. How can I remain untouched and unmoved by the joie de vivre of it all? In a moment like this it feels good to be alive on this beautiful planet.

What is all this juice and all this joy?          
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning 
In Eden garden.

From ‘Spring’ by G.M.Hopkins

The song continues throughout the morning with the welcome return of missing friends – voices back with us after absence. The migrant Willow Warbler, the Song Thrush with his ‘first fine careless rapture‘, the chirp of a Sparrow and the unmistakable song of a Chaffinch.

Chaffinch engraved cup ready for breakfast!

Regular familiar songbirds are here too including the powerful trills of the diminutive Wren, the ever-present Robin and the melodious Blackbird. Then the music begins to fade – it’s time for breakfast for both birds and birdwatcher!

But there’s surprise also. A recent report on the Sussex bird watching site of a Hoopoe the other side of our village (photo below) raises the question, have I missed something I wonder?

A Hoopoe sitting in tree
Photo of a Hoopoe by Nathan Levett. Taken in our own village in April.

Nature has its surprises, like that Hoopoe. It also has a sense of humour. We watch Greenfinches and Goldfinches at the feeder stuffing themselves with sunflower seeds, while dropping pieces for the eager Blackbirds and Wood Pigeons waiting below. Then an amusing Starling gives us his ‘rap’ on the neighbour’s rooftop:

..’And if you sampled sneaker-squeaks
and car alarms and phone ringtones
you’d still come nowhere near the
Rooftop riprap street-smart
hip-hop of starling song.

From ‘Starling Song’ in ‘Lost Words’ by Robert Macfarlane.
A starling perched in a tree.

This year’s International Dawn Chorus Day is on Sunday May 3rd. The BBC radio programme ‘Dawn Chorus’ with Brett Westwood in 2017 is worth hearing again. It follows the Dawn Chorus as it moves around the globe, beginning in the forests of India.

May woods. A good place to hear the Dawn Chorus.
These woods in the nearby Arun valley are full of birdsong in spring.

Earth Day

But the 50th anniversary of Earth Day last week reminds us there is a sad note to all the joy. There’s a hint of Mahler’s wistfulDas Leid von der Erde’ – ‘The Song of the Earth here. Earth bears man’s smear, smudge and heavy footprint and we owe her an apology. But God has not finished with this world. His Spirit broods over the earth full of promise. As the new day starts with song it brings us voices of hope. The dawn may fade into an ordinary day, but God’s eternal sunrise brings healing in its wings forever. Something to sing about indeed.

Wishing you good listening and Spring joy, despite these troubled times.

9 thoughts on “Earth sings at Dawn

  1. What a beautiful reflection on the Dawn Chorus which really stirs the heart and is a reminder of the joy and delight of our Creator God as He created the still abundant variety of birds and their songs to stir and touch our hearts. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you Sue. There can’t be many whose hearts are not stirred by this heaven-sent music of birdsong. I’m glad you see and share in God’s delight in it all.We all need this joy at the moment.

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  2. This post touched my heart, Richard – the dawn chorus is always my favorite moment of the day. Earth may be fragile but I think perhaps the virus is her only defense and a powerful one at that. We have seen the natural world come to life as we absent ourselves – surely we must find a middle way to live on the earth without killing her. Tragedy and hope, all intertwined. Thank you for the beautiful soliloquy on the music of the earth.

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    1. A gracious comment Lynn, thank you. We look for a new human world that slows down, travels less, lives a simpler lifestyle and values the simple things of life more. It’s a joy to hear the birdsong at present without the deafening background roar of aircraft and vehicles on the surrounding roads. Tomorrow on Dawn Chorus Day as we in the UK are woken by Earth’s music we will think of you friends in the US as the wave of song passes on to you. It may be different birds, but it’s the same music – and the same message too.

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  3. Lovely! Thank you for this wonderful dawn chorus post, Richard. I had forgotten about Dawn Chorus Day but the blackbird which woke me as dawn was breaking, singing just above my window this morning hadn’t!

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  4. Beautifully described Richard – ‘sunlight distilled into music’. I didn’t get up yesterday for the dawn chorus but I’m conscious that I need to hear it in all its glory sometime soon.

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    1. Well worth the effort, Andrea. As a bonus, we’ve just heard friends, who live across the fields from this village, tell us that they’ve heard a cuckoo this morning. I’m envious! But it’s great news to hear. We must keep listening.

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