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Where can I go to hear nightingales singing?

Sent in by David Thornber

The nightingale is a fascinating bird. Most people know of it yet few will have actually been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one.

Some RSPB reserves attract nightingales every year - Minsmere, in Suffolk, is a great place to hear them. In some years they can be heard from the car park! Highnam Woods in Gloucestershire, Garston Wood in Dorset and Pulborough Brooks, West Sussex, are all good places for nightingales. Other sites that offer good opportunities to hear nightingales include Brampton Woods and Paxton Pits, both in Cambridgeshire.

The best time of year to hear nightingales is May to early June when they should be in full song. Nightingales will sing at dawn and dusk but if you are lucky you may even hear them singing during the day as well.

Areas of woodland, scrub and heath with plenty of dense low vegetation such as bramble thickets are great places for nightingales to hide. To find a nightingale in the UK you should head to the southeast of England, which is their UK stronghold.

Considering their small size, dull colours and skulking habits you could quite easily overlook this bird. However, the unassuming nightingale has one of the most powerful, recogniseable and celebrated songs of all birds.

They live a life filled with danger as they are one of the many migrants that makes the return journey from Africa to Europe to spend the summer here. The nightingale population in the UK is declining along with many other long-distance migrants. Problems in their wintering grounds and on the migration are cause for concern but a lack of suitable dense under story cover for nesting and a lack of insect food may also be factors in their decline.

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