Posted 21st Mar 2018
Following a winter spent in the sun in West Africa, the nightingale has flown back across the Sahara and up through Iberia to make its way back to the woods of southern England
To look at, it appears to be a rather drab, unprepossessing bird, and looks a little like a slender robin who forgot to put his red bib on. However, it's not all about looks, and there's certainly more to this tan-coloured book than its cover, once the nightingale has opened its mouth.
By the start of May, the woods in southern England will be resounding with the song of the nightingale, who 'singest of summer in full-throated ease," as Keats poetically put it in his famous ode. Its song is also a very complicated one, with each male having up to 180 different song elements, a whole range of clicks and churrs, gurgles and croaks, whistles and trills, while the more complex the song, the more successful the male in attracting his mate.
How to do it
Despite what you could have heard, nightingales will not only sing at night. If anything, they will be at their loudest voice first thing in the morning, so be ready to be up early. Nightingales can be found in broadleaved woodlands, south of a line drawn between the Humber and the Severn. Singing from the densest bushes and shrubs, you're more likely to hear their loud song than you are to see the shy singer.
Fingringhoe Wick, a spot in Essex that is a few miles south-east of Colchester, is arguably the best place in the country to listen to the wonderful sound of the nightingale singing. In late April and early May, Fingringhoe Wick will host the astonishing sound of dozens of nightingales, singing their hearts out, on full throttle. Essex Wildlife Trust runs guided walks between late April to mid-April to listen to the sound of 30-40 male nightingales singing at the same time, and any visitor to the nature reserve during this period will be highly likely to hear the song.
Cambridgeshire, Brampton Wood
Lincolnshire, Whisby Nature Park
Suffolk, Lackford Lakes
Sussex, Woods Mill
Wiltshire, Lower Moor Farm
Information and text courtesy of the Wildlife Trusts / image courtesy of © Essex Wildlife Trust