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The Nightingale

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Submitted by Gavin Haigh on Tue, 19/05/2020 - 22:15

As I type this it is just after 8pm on Tuesday 19th May and finally I can add Song Thrush to my #BWKM0 list, on the strength of a singing bird I can hear from the garden. The characteristically repetitive notes and phrases make Song Thrush an easy species to identify by ear alone. Another easy one is the subject of this post...

The first Nightingale I knowingly heard was in Kent, somewhere between Canterbury Station and Stodmarsh in May 1978. But it was another three or four years before I actually saw one, at Minsmere in Suffolk. They are notoriously skulky.

Shortly after moving to Seaton at the end of 2002 I learned that Nightingales used to breed in the undercliff woodland between Axmouth and Lyme Regis, a vast entanglement of inpenetrable jungle that runs for six or seven miles of coastline. Despite their absence of several years I did have a half-hearted listen at the Axmouth end once or twice. Predictably I heard no Nightingales. Lots and lots of Song Thrushes though. And when you're cocking an ear for Nightingale, a Song Thrush can get your hopes up momentarily...

So anyway, as things stood I had spent the last 17 years without seeing or hearing a Nightingale, because in this neck of the woods they are as rare as the proverbial hen's teeth.

And then just recently I was kindly made privy to some gen...

My visit was just after first light, and I was gone by 06:00. The air was still, but full of birdsong. Approaching the spot I could hear the unmistakable sound of a Nightingale cutting through everything else. I had brought my digital recorder, so switched it on and pressed the big red button. Half an hour later I switched it off. Half an hour of non-stop Nightingale. And it was still going strong. Let me treat you to the first couple of minutes...

Initially you will hear the Nightingale and a Song Thrush sharing the stage, and it's noticeable that their phrases rarely overlap much. I don't know if that is intentional, or just coincidence. Also, apologies for a few extraneous noises from me...



Right in the middle of that lot you will have noticed a loud sound like ripping velcro. It was ripping velcro. Having had a brief glimpse of the bird itself I realised that I probably ought to have the camera out, in the extremely unlikely event that it might provide a photo opportunity. Not that I was under any illusions - it is well known that they like to sing invisibly from the middle of dense thickets.

Well, a bit later...er...

I could hardly believe my eyes when it did this!




I'm pretty sure I have never had better views of Nightingale. There I was, all alone, while most folk are still fast asleep, with one of the most melodic songsters in the the land performing like this. Life does not get much better.

I should probably point out that the light was appalling and these images have been subjected to some brutal editing in order to look presentable. The reality of things is a bit more apparent in this short video...



I don't expect to repeat an encounter like that in a hurry. Absolute magic...
Source: 
Gavin Haig