The Dawn Chorus citizen science project

In spring 2020 the citizen science project Dawn Chorus was launched. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic the world around us became slower and quieter. So why not record bird songs in front of our doorsteps early in the morning in order to find out how this lockdown affects bird life around us? This is exactly the aim of the Dawn Chorus project which will from now on take place every year in spring in order to find new knowledge about biodiversity.

Just a few days ago I heard about the citizen science project Dawn Chorus for the first time via Social Media. I became curious. Birds and music. What kind of project might it be?

The Dawn Chorus project is still a young project which was initiated just a few weeks ago. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and all our effort to avoid the distribution of the virus, the world around us became more and more quieter. But how does this affect bird life around us?

In spring most birds around us start with their hatching. Early in the morning they start the day with their loud and beautiful bird songs. Especially for bird researchers or other bird enthusiasts this time of the day early in the morning is very interesting. Because the birds are usually most active in the early morning. Especially in spring. However, all the bird songs in an European city might not sound like the bird songs anywhere in the forest or at the sea on a different continent.

Scientists talk about so-called soundscapes in this regard.

Thus, a soundscape, for example, anywhere in the Atlantic Forest in Brazil (photograph on the left: Itatiaia National Park) very probably does not sound like a soundscape in the center of Berlin (photograph on the right: Volkspark Friedrichshain).

Dawn Chorus
Dawn Chorus

However, how is a soundscape affected by the influence of anthropogenic noise like, for example, road traffic? Or how does wood clearing change the soundscape of a region? And is a soundscape indicative of biodiversity? These are just some few questions which might be addressed by the Dawn Chorus project in the following years.

The whole project was inspired by the work of Bernie Krause. A musician, bioacoustican, and soundscaping pioneer.

Information: If you want to know more about who is behind the Dawn Chorus, check the official website of the project. You will learn more about the initiators and who the project leads. You will also find a video of Bernie Krause on the website.

The initiators of the project ask all participants to record bird songs at dawn via a cell phone. Be it in front of the house or on a balcony. Or at an open window or anywhere else in a park in the center of a city. There are many possibilities to participate and listen to all the birds around you (Photograph: common nightingale).

Dawn Chorus

The Dawn Chorus is a citizen science project. Meaning, all the participants do not have to be a scientist by profession. As the scientists wouldn't be able to record all the soundscapes in different parts of the world, the Dawn Chorus as a citizen science project is also a way to collect data in a time-saving way.

And why is it worth to participate in the Dawn Chorus project? At the end, the aim of the project is to promote conservation. So if you participate, you might help, for example, to detect a species decline in a region. And by the way, by participating you are not only involved in a science project to bring forward conservation, you also learn more about bird songs (unless you know them already, but then you might learn something about bird songs in other places on earth).

Participate in the Dawn Chorus

In order to participate in the Dawn Chorus citizen science project you need a cell phone to record the bird songs. Furthermore, you need to be willing to get up early in the morning. If possible before sun rise. Just think of the aim of your bird song recordings as a motivation. The bird song recordings do serve not only the scientific community, but also conservation. As the more we know about species, the better we can protect them.

If you decide to participate in the Dawn Chorus project, you need to deal with the following three questions:

Where do you want to record the bird songs?

When do you have to be there?

And how can you record the bird songs with your cell phone?

When you choose a location, try to choose a calm environment. In front of your house or on a balcony. A park, in a forest or on a meadow. Then you should find out the exact time of the sun rise. Either via an app on your cell phone or by web search. Don't forget to install an app which enables you to record the bird songs.

Tip: On the website Sunrise and Sunset you can find out the exact time of sun rise at your location. The app I used for the bird song recording was Diktiergerät (Android). You will find more information about which apps you can use for your bird song recordings on the official website of the Dawn Chorus.

When you record the bird songs, the cell phone should be directed towards the birds. If possible, the bird song recordings should start about half an hour before sun rise. One bird song recording should last about 30 to 90 seconds. Ideally, you are able to repeat your bird song recordings in a 10 to 15 minutes interval. Preferably, you take a photograph of your recording location and note down the time, the background noises you hear and the weather conditions. Below you will find a link with more details about the recording instructions.

When you are done with your bird song recordings, you can upload your recordings on the Dawn Chorus website.

Bird songs anywhere in Berlin

As I do not have many birds in front of the window of my apartment, I have decided to go to the next park close-by.

I sat down on a small staircase and listened to the bird songs.

Citizen Science

I got up early in the morning and started with my recordings at 4:47 a.m.

I recorded the bird songs around me every 15 minutes. Thus, at the end I left with 5 bird song recordings (2nd recording: 5:02 a.m., 3rd recording: 5.17 a.m., 4th recording: 5.32 a.m., 5th recording: 5.47 a.m.). I recorded all of them for 60 seconds (plus/minus 1-2 seconds).

Tip: Note down the date and the weather conditions. Furthermore, if possible also write down the temperature. As I haven't had anything to measure temperature, I had to check it afterwards in the internet.

Between the recordings I just waited and listened to the bird songs. I mostly kept sitting on the staircase. I also paid some attention to the background noises. I furthermore tried to associate several bird songs to a species.

For example, I listened to a blue tit:

But also great tits:

I also heard a Eurasian blackcap:

Nevertheless, the best bird song recording was definitely the first one at 4:47 a.m. I recorded these bird songs on a weekend (Saturday). Now and then I heard a tram or a car passing by. However, in general I didn't find it that load on that day.

Tip: If it is possible for you, the best thing would be to record the bird songs both on a weekday and during the weekend. Due to the rush-hour traffic (at least in the city) it is expected to perceive more noise in the environment during the week. Does this noise affect the bird songs?

I uploaded my first recordings on the Dawn Chorus website on a Saturday at the weekend. On the following Tuesday I went to the same place for another hour just before going to work. I wanted to compare the bird songs at dawn on a weekday and on a day at the weekend.

I sat down on the staircase at the same place. As a comparison the following recording of the bird songs on Tuesday at 4:47 a.m.

On Tuesday the bird songs were loudest again at 4:47 a.m. Like on Saturday I recorded several times and again in 15 minutes intervals (2nd recording: 5:02 a.m., 3rd recording: 5.17 a.m., 4th recording: 5.32 a.m.). However, on Tuesday I left with just four bird song recordings (without the recording at 5:47 a.m.), as I still had to go to work.

For your information, there were almost no birds singing anymore when I left. Even at the forth recording on Tuesday it was very quiet.

Anyway, I'm very curious about the future developments of the project. And if the Dawn Chorus takes places next year, I'm sure to participate once again.

Links about the Dawn Chorus project

Have you participated in the Dawn Chorus project this year? If yes, which birds have you heard in your recordings? Please let me know in the comments.

Citizen Science
Dawn Chorus

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