Wednesday, 31 May 2017


I'm coming to the end of my third year at university, and the project reports, exams and essays mean that I don't have as much time to get outside into nature (or to blog!) as I would like. But a few weeks ago I took some time off to visit Whisby Nature Park and experienced something extraordinary. I heard a nightingale sing. 

Whisby has become famous for nightingales, with singing males every year and a relatively stable population. Despite this, I'd never knowingly heard one before. I don't think reading or talking about them prepares you for the real thing.

We were walking past hedgerows thick with hawthorn just coming into blossom and blackthorn fading out of blossom, when a noise stopped us. There was an overwhelming sense of a small bird being disproportionately loud, like catching sight of a singing wren and being slightly stunned that such a tiny bird can make so much noise.

Common nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos singing on a branch

There's a tonality to nightingale song which isn't quite like anything else. There's something almost electronic in those rapid runs of notes, but very much analog instead of digital. It sounds like a blackbird in full midsummer song crossed with a stuck record playing 1970s prog.

I didn't see the nightingale (I'm told you rarely ever do). Not properly, at least. But I caught a tantalising glimpse of something in the hedgerow, about head height. Small and brown, flitting from branch to branch. It might have just been a robin. But the song was unmistakable.

Nightingale from The RSPB on Vimeo.

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