Thursday, 4 May 2017

Nightingales and a cuckoo

On Tuesday evening, we spent a lovely couple of hours on a walk organised by the Cotswold Waterparks Trust at a site near Minety in Wiltshire, close to where we live. The point of the evening was to listen out for the wonderful male Nightingale which sings with such exquisite volume in the evening in the breeding season in late April and May - if you are lucky enough to hear him.

We did indeed hear him, deep in this thorny thicket, hidden from view to all but the most expert of eyes (fortunately supplied out by our guide, Nick), and sitting on the branch indicated by the white arrow. He sang as can be heard on this YouTube clip, intermittently at first. Later in the evening, he had moved to the large ash tree on the left of the photo and as it grew darker he sang continuously with the most extraordinary intensity and volume. The tree was fortunately not in full leaf and with binoculars we could see him clearly, his beak opening and his throat swelling with his song - wonderful!

Nightingales ( Luscinia megarhynchos) are surprisingly small - only slightly larger than our European robins - and are shy birds preferring to hide in thick bushes, and to nest close to the ground in dense brambles. In the UK they are rare and in Wiltshire here we are on the northern edge of their range so it is very unusual to hear them. During the evening we heard at least four different males, some at a distance since their song can carry a surprisingly long way.

So also can the call of the cuckoo. These birds are declining rapidly and only the other day, my husband and I were saying we hadn't heard a cuckoo for several springs and were wondering whether we would hear one this year. As we climbed over the stile at the beginning of the walk, a male called and continued to call throughout our two hours and through binoculars, we saw him perched on top of an isolated dead tree.

There were also many other birds calling in this wild and overgrown spot - including song thrushes (declining in numbers in the UK), blackbirds, warblers, and a whitethroat (the latter identified for us).

It was a wonderful evening. Our thanks to the CWPT for organising it. We will look out again for the dates next year.

* Both bird photos are from the excellent RSPB website.


  1. hier, j'ai vu une alouette au bord de mer...toujours une surprise qui fait plaisir...

    1. C'est vraiment un grand plaisir ... mais malheureusement aujourd'hui c'est rare en Angleterre ...


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