Hundreds of early birds will get the chance to hear the dawn chorus over the next week, as National Trust places celebrate International Dawn Chorus Day.
The global event, which takes place this Sunday, will be marked by dawn chorus walks led by rangers and expert birdwatchers at more than 20 National Trust places this month.
Among the sites where walks are planned are Cambridgeshire’s Wicken Fen, one of the UK’s oldest nature reserves and home to rare cuckoos, and Greenway, mystery writer Agatha Christie’s Devon retreat and a sanctuary for scarce farmland bird the cirl bunting.
Research suggests that listening to the dawn chorus could prove good for the mind – as well as the legs.
The University of Tampere’s Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe spent four years researching the psychological benefits of birdsong. Her PhD at University of Surrey, which discovered that listening to birdsong could relieve feelings of stress, was supported by the National Trust and Surrey Wildlife Trust.
Dr Ratcliffe said: “There’s a large body of research showing that being in nature can help people suffering from stress or mental fatigue. We now also know that natural sounds like birdsong can have similar effects.
“We found that people responded best to birdsong that is melodic, like a blackbird’s song. As for me, I’ve always thought that the wren had a beautiful voice.”
Pete Brash, an expert ecologist at the National Trust, added: “There’s no better feeling than heading out whilst it’s still dark and listening to the birds waking up around you.
“At this time of year listen out for the languid serenade of the willow warbler. If you’re lucky you might even hear a nightingale.”