It’s that time of year again. The International Dawn Chorus will take place on May 2nd and RTÉ’s Derek Mooney tells Kay Doyle why it’s so special.


Early risers and light sleepers will be familiar with the sound of the birds at first light. As summer approaches, their song is recited earlier and with a renewed energy for the changes nature is bringing. It’s 4 a.m. and morning has broken.

The blackbird will have spoken in many parts of the country as dark skies welcome in a faintness of light on the horizon, much to celebratory verse of the robins, wrens, rooks, chaffinches, and thrushes – just some of the members in the choir of the Dawn Chorus.

On May 2nd, this well-versed choir of wild birds will perform to an international audience from their tree branches and perches across Ireland. RTÉ Radio One’s annual live International Dawn Chorus has listeners across the world tuning in to hear a unique and uplifting celebration of birdsong and nature.

“We’ve been doing the Dawn Chorus in one form or another for twenty-six years this year,” says RTÉ’s Derek Mooney, of Mooney Goes Wild and presenter of the International Dawn Chorus.

“Last year we only did a recorded version due to Covid-19 and it was the cleanest dawn chorus ever. It was just extraordinary. I just recorded it with two stereo microphones, and we got the most amazing sound, and it was because of the environment.

“It was just me and Niall Hatch from Birdwatch Ireland, keeping our social distance and capturing this amazing sound. There wasn’t a plane in the sky or the hum of distant traffic or mechanical disruption of any kind.”
Not only have Covid-19 restrictions seen a reduction in noise pollution right across the world, but it has also led many people to a greater appreciation of our flora and fauna, and in particular for the songs of our wild birds.

“The Roman philosopher Lucretius said that the birds taught humans to sing. I argue that they’ve also taught us to listen,” says Derek. The Dawn Chorus has always been there, but some of us haven’t really heard it until now.

“Last year in lockdown we saw an exponential rise in the number of people contacting Mooney Goes Wild. We started getting more and more pictures because everybody has mobile phones and can take pictures and record sounds. It’s for everybody.

“The great thing about nature programmes is you don’t make them specifically for a ten-year-old or an eighty-year-old, it doesn’t matter. That’s why they are so appealing and successful.”

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own