A nightingale sang

RSPB Highnam Woods reserveThe other week I was lucky enough to join a Bristol Naturalists’ Society walk to RSPB Highnam Woods in Gloucestershire in search of that master of song, the nightingale.

I’d never actually heard a nightingale before – they’re sadly quite a rare thing these days. There is so much history and folklore surrounding these special birds that it seemed almost like we were looking for something out of a myth or legend, and I have to confess that I wasn’t even entirely sure what nightingale song sounded like.

We weren’t disappointed. Within minutes of leaving the car park, we found one in full song – quite an exotic sound, in many ways like the song of a song thrush, but with lots of bubbling phrases, long pauses and rattles. In all, we managed to hear at least three separate males singing, and probably more, and some of the group even managed to get a glimpse of one of them.

Trees at RSPB Highnam WoodsAs well as the nightingales, there were also many other birds joining in a wonderful evening chorus. The song thrushes were giving the nightingales a run for their money, and blackbirds, wrens, robins, blackcaps, chiffchaffs and the odd willow warbler were not far behind. We spotted a green woodpecker flying over, and a couple of great spotted woodpeckers were flying about and drumming. It was also great to hear the ‘cronking’ of ravens in the background, although the male pheasant that suddenly flew up from under our feet was a bit of a shock!

It was amazing to think that the nightingales, along with the chiffchaffs and willow warblers, were in Africa just a few weeks ago.

Bluebell, Highnam Woods Bluebells along path, Highnam Woods

Bluebells and greater stitchwort, Highnam Woods

While the trees were still just coming into full leaf, the paths around the reserve were lined with glorious wildflowers such as bluebells and greater stitchwort – after lots of recent rain there was also a wonderful rich, earthy smell to the air. Perfect for an evening walk with its musical birdsong accompaniment!

You can view a short clip of the nightingales singing below:

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