Nightingale, Luscinia megarhynchos

The area seems to be rather favoured by Nightingales, with up to five males within about a mile of the house. For anyone who lives locally, one reliable singer operates in the small patch of wood the other side of the lane from Backtilt wood. That is, on the east side of the lane about 50 yards up from the entrance to Colebarn Farm. A visit at the crack of dawn from mid-April to early June should be rewarded by hearing this bird.

The first bird featured here, though, was singing in the wood behind the house in April 2005. I'd gone out to try to locate our local mother Tawny Owl, who should have been sitting on a brood at the time. I failed to find her -- although it turned out later that she had been sitting -- in a tree under which I passed that night! (One of the creatures she was keeping quiet about is pictured at top left, though Sophie would have been inside an egg at the time.) All the time I was walking around I'd been hearing a distant Nightingale, and at about 1 am I gave up the search for the mother tawny to try to track this singer down in his tree. Once I'd located him I recorded for one and a half hours in perfect conditions. He didn't stop singing -- it was the batteries that gave up!

Here's a longish excerpt from about 1.50 am which gives a good idea of the Nightingale's amazing repertoire. Elements are combined to give phrases that never seem to be repeated. The distant hooting is Tawny Owls over in Hemsted Forest. Date is 21 April 2005.

Summerhill Nightingale (3.55 Mb) 160 kb/s mp3, 3 min, Telinga + dish


The Nightingale was back in April 2006, but some time in early to mid May he fell silent. I hope this was because he'd found a mate and not because he'd been brought in to feed that spring's brood of little tawnies! I shall listen out for him in 2007. (May 2007: he was back!)


Next, here's the Backtilt wood Nightingale, recorded on 12 May 2006 in the early stages of dawn chorus and with two cuckoos in the background. He's recorded with a couple of Rode NT1-A mics, so the recording is slightly easier on the ear than the somewhat bright Telinga mic. though that also means there's some traffic rumble. The noises near the end are the recordist walking around tending all the equipment that's running, but I've kept the end as there's a particularly long trill there. Time is soon after 4 am.

Backtilt wood Nightingale (3.84 Mb) 160 kb/s mp3, 3 min 21 s, Rode NT1-A mics

What's struck me listening to recordings made in Belgium and Poland is that the Nightingales who come to our area sing in a more leisurely way. The continental birds set about things altogether rather briskly. I like our more lyrical birds.

A curiosity

If you heard this "synthesized" bird call, what would you think it was?

Mystery bird (159.19 K)

A rather dopey Nightjar maybe? Or a woodpecker . . In fact, of course, it's one of the many noises the amazing Nightingale makes strung together into a 10-second clip. The next sample starts with the complete Nightingale phrase, followed by the end of the phrase, where it makes the clicks. That's followed by a short bit of the "synthesized" Nightjar, and the clip ends with a real Nightjar.

Nightingale & Nightjar clicks (321.24 K)

More of the real Nightjar on the Nightjar page.

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