Dawns to brighten your day

When life gets busy, it can sometimes be difficult to become a morning lark. But when you open your windows, feel the freshness of the early hours, gaze at a sun-streaked sky and tune in to the dawn chorus, you might never want to have another lie-in.

In Welsh, 'dawns' means 'to dance', and that's exactly what the sky does in the early hours of the morning. Sunlight reaches out over the horizon, in a move that's sure to transform the sky before your very eyes. As the mornings are getting lighter, use those extra hours to appreciate the golden hour that's waking up wildlife wherever you are. Wake up early to see how the dawn colours transform the appearance of your street, or glimpse a bird or two playing in your back garden. Falling in love with the morning never seemed so easy. 

During April, sunrise times vary between 6.30am at the start of the month and 5.30am towards the end. In May, the sun rises at 5.30am at the beginning of the month and 5am towards the end.

In this article, you'll find out about:

Listen out for the dawn chorus of birdsong

Song thrush perched in a tree

Song thrush

The song thrush perches in the treetops to sing its heart out in a pattern of identical repeated phrases. If you see a bird with a spotted breast and pale brown back, it's sure to be a song thrush.

Skylark foraging in coastal grassland, Trevose Head, Cornwall

Skylark

The skylark is a brownish bird, and its song is simply beautiful. Larks soar from the ground and float upwards on helicopter wings singing a burbling, watery song all the while. Sometimes they go so high that you can barely see them, but the song carries nonetheless.

Greenfinch perching in a tree

Greenfinch

You might spot a Greenfinch on your bird feeder. Their call is a bit of an odd wheezy note, like a gate that needs oiling. In spring the bright green males show off with extravagant, looping song flights, showing off in search of a mate, flashing the bright yellow stripe on their wings.

If you want to know more about dawn wildlife, check out Every Day Nature written by Andy Beer.

Have you ever wondered which birds are in your garden? Could they be chaffinches, robins or blackbirds? Check out our article on different birds you can hear wherever you are and for tips on how to spot them in your garden. 

Wicken Fen - Male bearded tit with fledglings

Hear birdsong wherever you go 

The dawn chorus is the backing track to the sunrise. Make the most of the lighter early hours of the day and see if you can pick out your favourite birds, whether they're singing in your back garden, from a lamp post on your street or in the trees above.

A display of dawns for armchair viewing

Sunrise over Loweswater, Lake District

No. 23 get up for the sunrise 

There's nothing more refreshing than getting up to watch the sunrise. Watching the dawn is also part of our 50 things to do before you're 11¾. Why not see what sights you can see and sounds you can hear when you become a morning lark?

View of Dordrecht (from the Maas) by Aelbert Cuyp

Spectacular skies: dawns and dusks in our collections 

Many artists have tried to capture the fleeting moments of sunrise and sunset. We’ve selected some of the best examples in our paintings collection. Each portrays some aspect of the beauty, magnificence and tranquillity of dawn and dusk.

Nature's palette – what makes the sky go red?

The phenomenon that results in red skies at sunrise and sunset is called scattering.

When the sun is low on the horizon the light travels through more of the atmosphere towards us than it does during the rest of the day. Because of the nature of the molecules, more of the shortwave blue wavelengths are scattered aside than other wavelengths in the colour spectrum, and the light appears red or orange to us.

The same effect occurs whenever light takes a long path through the atmosphere before it reaches our eyes. For example, if a layer of cloud extends almost to the horizon, the distant strip of sky that remains visible just below it will frequently look orange or red.

Curious about the weather? Check out How to Read the Weather by Storm Dunlop. Our online and in-store shops are closed for now, but you can still browse for ideas for when we open our doors again.

DAWNS: a unique sunrise experience

A first-light musical performance

From 3.43am on Saturday 16 May, in collaboration with artists non zero one, we welcomed dawn with a unique musical experience.

As daylight swept across the country from the North East to the South West, six performers from six locations across the UK collaborated to perform a specially composed piece of music.

Thousands of people listened live online and joined a national moment of connection with nature and each other, taking part in a shared experience of dawn.

Codger's Fort on the estate at Wallington, Northumberland

National Trust Podcast episode 77: DAWNS and the dawn chorus

In this podcast episode we go behind the scenes of DAWNS to discover how one of the Trust’s most ambitious musical mass participation events came to fruition. We also meet Andy Beer, author of Every Day Nature, who shares his top tips on how to grow a deeper understanding and appreciation of the dawn chorus.

Butterflies on a bluebell stem

Donate to support nature’s key workers 

As a charity, we rely on donations. But our income has dropped sharply due to the coronavirus crisis. From butterflies to blossom, the places we care for are home to a huge amount of diverse wildlife, that will need our support over the coming weeks and months.