The Dawn Chorus 2021 airs on RTÉ Radio 1 from 01:00 to 07:00, Sunday 2nd May.
RTÉ Radio 1’s annual live Dawn Chorus has become something of a national institution, with listeners across Ireland and around the globe tuning in during the early hours each May to hear a unique and uplifting celebration of birdsong and the natural world.
Winner both of the National PPI Radio Award for Innovation and the coveted International Rose d’Or award, the programme has become one of the broadcast highlights of the year. Featuring live birdsong and expert commentary, it offers an unmatched live celebration of our natural heritage.
This year’s programme comes at a time when interest in birdsong has never been higher. The COVID-19 crisis has led many people to a greater appreciation of our flora and fauna, and in particular for the songs of our wild birds. Last year, the joy and optimism engendered by birdsong was discovered by a lot of people for the first time, and it became a crucial source of comfort and entertainment for a great many of us during dark times. The Coronavirus restrictions that were introduced in the spring meant that most of us found ourselves suddenly confined to our homes, and the lack of background noise from traffic meant that the Dawn Chorus stood out to us like never before. It had always been there; it’s just that we had never really noticed it before.
‘Home base’ for this year’s live broadcast will be BirdWatch Ireland’s Cuskinny Marsh Nature Reserve in Cork, where our main presentation team of Derek Mooney, Jim Wilson and Niall Hatch will introduce the Dawn Chorus and, while the birdsong builds in real-time, explain to listeners what our feathered friends are getting up as the sun rises. Across the country, Richard Collins, Éanna Ní Lamhna, Eric Dempsey and Terry Flanagan will also bring us the birdsong from their parts of Ireland, as the sun gradually breaks the horizon and the birds begin their performances.
Executive producer/presenter of the Dawn Chorus, Derek Mooney said:
“I am thrilled that we can broadcast the International Dawn Chorus Live this year. We have been broadcasting the Dawn Chorus on RTÉ Radio 1 in some form or another for 26 years but this year has special significance, particularly after having to cancel it last year, due to Covid-19. I am also happy that our Irish birds will potentially be heard by millions of listeners across Europe as the programme is available through the European Broadcasting Union.”
But that’s not all. This year the programme will have a distinctly Celtic flavour, featuring live feeds from Europe’s modern Celtic nations. Avian experts from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, amongst others will showcase their own local songbirds, and we will delve into their cultural history and significance. We are delighted to be partnering with our colleagues BBC Wales, BBC Scotland to bring you this broadcast first.
The birds won’t be the only ones making music for us. We are delighted to announce that Paddy Glackin and Dónal Lunny, two of Ireland’s most talented and acclaimed traditional musicians, will be joining our team to bring listeners a selection of Celtic tunes. A Dawn Chorus of a different kind, it promises to be an experience not to be missed.
Immediately prior to the live broadcast itself, we will be airing three documentaries from the Mooney Goes Wild archives, each celebrating a different wild bird species. The Curlew is one of Ireland’s most iconic, yet most threatened, birds and its mournful cry is synonymous with Irish wilderness. We explore just why it has become so rare and take an in-depth look at the enormous efforts being taken to save it.
The Common Eider is a sea-duck which, although it has never actually been seen by most people, it is well-known as the producer of one of the most luxurious and valuable materials in the natural world: eiderdown, with its unparalleled insulating properties. We explore the world of these colourful, charismatic ducks and help you get to know the bird behind the quilt.
Finally, we tell the tale of the highly migratory White Stork, a bird which is just a very rare visitor to Ireland but which is celebrated across mainland Europe as the harbinger of spring. Often featured in myths and legends across many disparate cultures and a renowned symbol of luck, fertility and good fortune, it is a species that in recent years has experienced a remarkable recovery from what seemed like certain doom.
So, join us on RTÉ Radio 1 from 01:00 on Sunday 2nd May for a very special celebration of our wild birds, an exploration of the shared natural heritage of the Celtic world and the finest free concert you will hear all year.
Derek Mooney added:
“I’m a light sleeper. It doesn’t take much to wake me up and sometimes it can be a right pain. That said, I love to hear the birds singing in the early morning. It’s got to be the most refreshing sound in nature. It’s like a deep clean of the ear canal.
“The Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius was convinced that we humans learned to sing by listening to the birds. I believe they can also teach us to listen.”