Tomorrow is International Dawn Chorus Day - a day to celebrate the early morning swell of birdsong.  Even if you don’t want to get up with the birds at dawn, it’s the perfect time to throw open your windows and let the birdsong in.   

My daughter and I ventured out at dawn this morning to our local common and we were greeted with a cacophony from blackbirds, blackcaps, chiffchaffs, wrens and robins.  It was very cold, we were very sleepy, but it was wonderful.

Dropping my daughter back at home to climb back into bed, I then cycled to the river and the airwaves were bolstered by the sounds of skylarks, lapwings and the common terns that had a returned from Africa to Cambridge this week – a timely reminder that bits of the world are still working.  

One of our trustees, Victoria Chester, shared a lovely quote this week which links our intimate experiences of nature with an imperative to act globally.  It came from Isabel Lloyd, reviewing Tim Dee’s new book ‘Greenery: Journeys in Springtime’ in the Tablet last month.  She wrote “[For Dee] birds connect time and space: their extraordinary annual journeys mean that the warbler Dee sees panting with heat under a thorn tree in Africa could be exactly the same bird he later hears singing in a dripping Exmoor oak.  The presence of the bird makes both places exist simultaneously, one as real and important as the other.  Birds, for Dee, are migrants who literally rise above the fragmented human world of arbitrary borders, and make it whole.”

Lockdown has shifted our perspectives.  Our gardens – if we are lucky enough to have them - are watched more than ever.  Our one hour of exercise in local greenspaces is cherished.  People are connecting with nature to lift their spirits, reduce anxiety or relieve boredom.

It is probably a good thing that lockdown has coincided with Spring which means we were rewarded with new life signalled through birdsong and the riot of colour provided by wildflowers. 

We all rely on and are grateful for our National Health Service which has been at the frontline caring for friends and family and we must do everything we can to protect it.  Yet, as the nation remains in lockdown, our ability to remain connected to nature – through our gardens and greenspaces – has proven vital to our mental well-being.  Lockdown has reminded us that there is a second NHS on which we also rely – the Natural Health Service (the subject of a new book by Isabel Hardman).  

As I have previously written and Wildlife and Countryside Link has reported, it is a tough time for many nature conservation organisations including the RSPB because we have had to shut our nature reserves and visitor facilities which has hit income while we have also had to pause crucial conservation projects.

But, the good news is that we have seen a surge in engagement online with big increases in the number of people using our website and thousands of people taking part #BreakfastBirdwatch between 8 and 9 in the morning to get people to share on social media the birds they have seen.   

We’ve tried to keep people busy by providing nature-based activities for families to do during the day such building bug hotels and people have been sharing images of birds and also using our bird song identification pages on our website.  And our supporter service team has had big increase in the number of enquiries about people noticing a change in bird numbers.

That’s fantastic as it shows that the interest is there. 

As we look to recover from the crisis, we must remember that investing in nature and the many people and organisations that care for it is an investment in the UK.  It is investing in our health and wellbeing, which relieves pressure from our NHS.  It is investing in creating employment opportunities across the entire UK.  It is investing in flood protection, carbon storage, clean water and long term food production.  In short, it is investing in life.

Yet, we also know that our natural environment is trouble.  There are 40 million fewer birds than there were 50 years ago and large percentages of our natural habitats have been destroyed.

As the National Trust’s Director General, Hilary McGrady, wrote today “Ministers now urgently need to address nature, wildlife and environmental organisations with an immediate offer of support, and set out how the sector will contribute towards its green recovery plan.”

This is why we shall be working with other environmental organisations to urge the governments across the UK to establish the right regulatory and economic response to the pandemic, it is why we continue to call for ambitious global plans to drive nature’s recovery and tackle climate change. 

It is why we are supporting BirdLife International’s #1Planet1Right campaign to secure the right to a healthy natural environment in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

So, enjoy your own dawn chorus, remind yourselves just how amazing birds are, that they need our help and that now is the time to invest in nature’s recovery for its own sake and for our own species.

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