By Noel Reynolds (Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Noel Reynolds (Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
I’m lucky – although, actually, luck didn’t have that much to do with it; I live in the countryside.  This means that I can drive for 20 minutes, as I did on Saturday evening, and stand in an ancient woodland at dusk and listen to Nightingales singing.

I do this every year – and it is more important to my quality of life than the level of the Stock Market.

Have you ever stood in a wood listening to Nightingales? Have you ever heard a Nightingale sing? They are wonderful – here is a sample of Nightingale song.

Isn’t that simply amazing?  And that little bird, sometimes glimpsed in the dusk but usually well-hidden, has been to Africa and back since last I listened to it sing in the Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Glapthorn Cow Pasture.

There are plenty of places in Europe where Nightingales are so common that they are a little bit irritating, but in an English wood, in an English spring, in English drizzle even, the song of the Nightingale is one of the finest free shows available.

But you aren’t all as lucky as I am. If you live too far west or too far north then you won’t have any nearby Nightingales – you should probably pay a lower rate of income tax to compensate you for your loss, I think.  In days gone by, the BBC used to broadcast a live Nightingale song every year on 18 May and a friend of mine Chris Rose is asking them to do it again.  You can support his campaign by clicking here.

It can’t be that difficult – I’ve stood in a car park by the edge of a wood, at 0730 in the morning and done a live radio interview on the Today programme, more than once, thanks to a nifty little satellite dish perched on top of Tom Fielden’s car.  Let’s give a much more fluent performer its chance again.

In case we can’t persuade the BBC to do it – is there anyone out there who has some tips on how a similar result can be achieved with a mobile phone pointed at the singing bird? Answers please as comments on this blog. Are there any clever, technically proficient young folk who will give it a go – or old folk, I’m not fussy?

I’d love it if we could find a way to share, live, the beautiful song of this little brown bird with thousands of others who are sitting in their urban flats, or maybe in their cars, or on trains.  How do we bring the song of the Nightingale to the public again? The best way would be for the BBC to do it. But maybe we can do it ourselves…


4 Replies to “Nightingales”

  1. Great idea Mark!

    Perhaps the BBC could go one further and set aside Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ to a specific bird song at least once a week.

    Most people will have heard of a Nightingale, even if they’ve never heard one (on tape or in life) but let’s create an opportunity for them to be introduced to the many other species with wonderful songs and calls.

    Nightingale is indeed a beautiful song but, for me at least, Woodlark is Britain’s best songster. It’s habit of flying around and around high in the sky, day or night, broadcasting its beautiful and evocative liquid melody is simply … uplifting for the soul!

    Best regards,


    1. It does already do a ‘Tweet of the day’ on Radio 4 but as this is broadcast just before 6 am it is probably missed by many people, sadly.

      I’d be hard pressed to name a number one songster but would say that whilst Nightingale and Woodlark are undeniably beautiful there are also some common and widespread species that form a beautiful part of our summer soundscape such as willow warbler and blackbird to name but two. And whilst it may not be song, I never hear the screaming of swifts without feeling uplifted.

  2. In the original film of The Railway Children with Bernard Cribbins the soundtrack contains bird song. Is it a nightingale?

  3. Here in Derbyshire, we have neither nightingales nor woodlarks sadly… I’d have to nominate something else. Maybe not a song but a display?
    Of common birds, a wood pigeon’s joyous swoop and stall always gives me pleasure as does the ‘butterfly’ display (with accompanying ‘song’) of the LRP which I’ve been witnessing at The Sanctuary LNR in Derby recently. Then of course there’s the crazy display of the lapwing and, much rarer, the skydancing of the male hen harrier. Despite all the odds against any raptor surviving on the Derbyshire grouse moors, there’s been one displaying for several weeks up there, monitored by conservationists – though so far failing to attract and hold a female (as Simon Barnes has been reporting in The Times recently).
    Of lesser known displays (and one I’ve not seen for years) I do love to see a razorbill launch itself off its clifftop ledge and do its slo-mo wing beating display down to the sea below….that is particularly pleasing for some unknown reason!
    Ps. My British Wildlife magazine has just popped through the letterbox and I am pleased to see two pieces in it about The Sanctuary and the battle that saved it.

Comments are closed.