The Nightingale is the national animal of Ukraine. Much revered and treasured in Ukrainian folklore, where it is a symbol of volition, high inspiration and unsurpassed talent.
A small brown and secretive bird that migrates to our shores from Europe in ever declining numbers, between late April and June, in order to breed. It prefers south eastern counties such as Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Kent and Sussex. In the breeding season it chooses to hide in thick, impenetrable thorny thickets, where it and its tiny nest are well protected from predators.
The Nightingale may not be the most colourful bird, but what it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for with its song. This melodious bird is able to produce over 1000 different sounds, compared with the skylark that creates 340 and the blackbird with only 100. This is because the area of the bird’s brain responsible for creating bird song is much larger in the Nightingale that in most other birds.
Why do Nightingales sing at night? It is nearly always the male Nightingale singing through the night. It is believed that these are single male birds trying their hardest to serenade a migratory female as she flies over. And why at night? Because there is less competition from other birds. As if there could be any bird that could rival the Nightingale for a song!
I remember as a small child (a long time ago!) being taken by my Grandmother to Haugh Woods near Hereford, to listen to the Nightingales. My Grandmother was a brilliant ornithologist and was particularly knowledgable on bird song, specialising in Warblers. It was such an exciting trip for a little girl as we had to be there by dark!
When I was in Finland I was also lucky enough to hear them, singing all night with such ferocity from a small pink granite island no bigger than a pocket handkerchief and containing a smattering of Myrtle bushes. The undergrowth giving just enough cover for a small, brown bird to hide in and sing its heart out against a pale blue night sky, waiting for a lady to fly over, maybe all the way from Ukraine.
Do you have any memories of hearing Nightingales??? We would love to hear them.