Friday, 14 May 2010

And a Nightingale sang......

Last night an open invitation to the good folk of the BBC's Natural History Unit was offered to take us on a Nightingale walk at an RSPB reserve in Somerset. On a gloriously sunny and peaceful evening we met the RSPB's warden, Becky Thorpe and volunteer Dion Warner for what turned out to be a most memorable evening.

I thought I knew Somerset very well but have never been to Swell Woods before near Langport. We duly arrived at the allotted time and while faffing about with boots and binoculars, the group were entertained by a nuthatch on the feeders. A good omen for the rest of the evening. It turned out we weren't having the walk there, but being taken to a closed access area a few miles away. So off we went and it being only about 7.30 pm and a bit too early for nightingales set off to explore the wildflower rich farmland.

And what a fabulous spot. I apologise for the quality of the photos, these were taken on my BlackBerry, especially the out of focus green winged orchid below - but I wanted to record it on the blog. The two fields we walked through were awash with flowers, cowslips, some ox-slips, orchids, cuckoo flower to name a few. It was heartening to see such a fabulous oldy worldy field again. And that part of Somerset is fabulous anyway. We were in heaven.

But we'd come here for the birds.... as we entered the field we heard a cuckoo and while walking at the head of the group with Dion I thought I spied it flying across the bottom field. Walking down there, I saw it again, this was looking good. It's been many years since I have had a good view of a cuckoo. Hang onto your hats, this is going to get better. Dion and I stood there while the rest of the group caught up; there it was again, fantastic, oh hang on, there's another, oh just brilliant 2 cuckoos flying backwards and forwards across the field in what we assumed was a courtship flight (Stephen Moss organised the walk and he thought this was the reason).

But then one cuckoo flew behind us and a third began to .... err, well, cuckoo. This third cuckoo was located in a tree. So that was three cuckoos in a single field. Many years ago this wouldn't have been remarkable, but these days with the dramatic decline of migrant species in the UK, this was heartwarming. The pair gave us a display for well over 20 minutes. Talking to Stephen, Becky and Dion we said we had never seen such a wonderful, and prolonged view of a cuckoo. I'd got so excited I'd forgotten why we had come here, for the nightingales.

But the fields also teemed with wildlife, roe deer, reed bunting, sedge warbler, stonechat, heron, moorhen, long tailed tit, bats, swifts and swallows low over us, a peregrine and many corvids. So as we wandered back I was a happy man.

We got to the woods and Dion said to me come this way before the rest catch up with us. The two of us hoofed it down this track as he wanted to show me more flower rich meadows. But there it was, a nightingale singing in the distance, and beyond that another. It was a bit too far away to get the full effect of one of natures operatic singers, but good for me. We walked back to the group and there, not 20 meters from our gathering another nightingale sang. This time in full Pavarotti mode. What a voice.... the nightingale that is. I had some recording equipment with me so managed to capture the little fella-me-lad for a good 10 minutes. In the gathering gloom, with bats and moths flying overhead, and that crystal clear, waterfall song of nature, this was undoubtedly one of the best evening walks I've ever been on.

But it wasn't over yet. As we left the nightingale to itself and headed back to the cars, above Dion's car, yet another nightingale in fine voice. An evening seeing 3 cuckoos flying around us and 4 nightingales singing at their very best has to be a red letter day for me. I hope to return again one day ....

However, changing the subject somewhat and to catch up on the week briefly, I'll not return to Swell woods with Molly (exhibit 1 below m'lud)

This is Julie's cat, she's about 11 I think and mother of Sammy (not in picture) and Molly spent a good hour watching what I was getting up to in the garden on Monday. The beginning of last weekend was spent at my house, then Julie's. On Saturday we went to the Malvern Spring Garden show, it was a good day, but I would say it was wet and blooming cold, so we didn't stay as long as planned. So wet and cold in fact I had to cook soup on the stove under an umbrella..... yes thanks for the photo reminder Julie!!

Then on Sunday it was back to Wiltshire, where we went into domestic chores mode, such as gardening on Monday as I has a lieu day to take..... see evidence below.

Monday was also her MOT day, the car that is not Julie, so we spent a lot of time driving back and forth to the garage at Oare. To get there one has to drive through Pewsey and I'm getting to like that place, not least for the wildlife perched above shop doorways. Hares are a favourite of mine and these two made from chicken wire have caught my eye many a time. So much so (coupled with a wire crow in the gallery nearby) just before taking this photograph, I purchased a 10 meter roll of chicken wire........ watch this space folks.. !

and finally, not least as the smoke alarms have just gone off, which means my sausages are burning, in a previous posting I posted a worrying and disturbing photograph of Julie's wellingtons. Well I have had another photograph which sent a shiver down my spine.... all I will say about the photo below is the secateurs look remarkable clean and untouched for a professional gardener..... and apparently she was in trug heaven when she took this photo. Those of you who do garden will understand how a happy trug is a trug filled with weeds.

............. I need a lie down in a darkened cupboard seeing this again, before I have my breakfast !!


  1. Great outing to hear the nightingales! The hares playing sculpture is quite a nice piece of art. I am looking forward to see what becomes of your purchase of chicken wire. ;-)


  2. What a fantastic walk, I have never heard a nightingale although there is a demented Robin that sings through the night outside the hospice where I work. I am on nights at the moment and it sang it's heart out at 2am!
    Looking forward to the chicken wire sculpture! Have you got the stone carving out on display yet?

  3. Thank's Wilma, I'm looking forward to what happens with the chicken wire too

  4. Hi Goosey, that's a good point - no I don't have the stone carving on display yet. I must. There are (or were) nightingales at Lydlinch Common it is a remarkable song when heard in full. I'd watch that demented robin though...

  5. It must have been heaven to be on the reserve and hearing the nightingales, seeing the wild flowers and seeing the other wildlife. Ah yes, I can see why Julie was in trug heaven, lol. A great post Andrew.

  6. I'll let Julie know you approve Oldcrow.....