The Night Songstress

The Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) or Night Songstress.

The Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) or Night Songstress.

I had never heard a Nightingale sing in my youth but had heard all about them in the poetry that I had read at school, so I knew that their song was quite special and imagined what it might sound like in my head. As my interest in wildlife grew with every passing year I began to travel further afield to see the various species that did not frequent my local area and the Nightingale was squarely on the list. I finally ticked this ambition off several years ago and have been back to listen to them sing every Spring since then.

Nightingales can be very difficult to see in the thick scrub sometimes.

Nightingales can be very difficult to see in the thick scrub sometimes.

Nightingales spend the winter in West Africa and fly to Britain in the Spring to breed. They look a bit like a Robin without the red breast in my eyes but appear to be a bit bigger in size and have a tendency to hold the tail in a dipped position when perched. You can make out a lovely white eye-ring with some binoculars or a scope and the beak appears to glow orange/yellow in the sunshine, especially when they are singing. Even though they can be singing right in front of you it’s usually very hard to spot them but every now and then they will move into the open to continue their tune for all to enjoy.

Nightingales have an incredibly loud and rich song which can be heard from a long way off.

Nightingales have an incredibly loud and rich song which can be heard from a long way off.

The song of the Nightingale is probably the most iconic sound that you can hear in the south of England around April and May. They also sing at night and this is where they get their name, Nightingale, meaning ‘night songstress’. The first time I hear those laser-like notes each Spring it resonates right through my chest and it stops me mid-breath. Then I am all smiles and ears.  I love its loud, strong delivery, finished off with an exquisite flourish of trills. Each bird adds their own flavour of rich, melodic phrases to the mix. The more accomplished males (probably the older ones) appear to lavishly embroider their passages with fantastic buzzes and whirrs mixed in amongst repeated, long, plaintiff notes and finished off with fancy staccato motifs. It really doesn’t matter that I can’t see the bird half of the time amongst the thick scrub, the song is pleasure enough for me.

A great place to go and see these mighty songsters is Pulborough Brooks in West Sussex which always offers great views of half a dozen or more birds every year. I have included a small video of a singing Nightingale in case you have never seen, or indeed, heard one. Enjoy.

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~ by shaftinactionn on April 24, 2015.

One Response to “The Night Songstress”

  1. That sums up just how I feel about them too – they are such wonderful singers – lifts the heart and soul

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