Trip reports

Nightingale Walk at RSPB Cliffe Pools (Leader David Saunders)

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

A perfect evening for nightingale singing.

Last evening was the second of RSPB Medway Local Groups events to engage members of the public with these fantastic birds and listen to their iconic song.

Much has been written about them and their vocal talents, but until you actually experience one in the flesh giving it their all a few yards away, they are only words. If a picture paints a thousand words then the same goes for a sound. An assault on the ear as well as the eye, the difference between going to a concert and watching one on the television.

So, 28 gathered in the car-park at RSPB Cliffe Pools to hear about the bird, learn about Lodge Hill and Medway Council's plan to concrete over the UKs most important site for them. Where the site is and why it's so important. What a Site of Special Scientific Interest is (SSSI) and how such designated land has never been built on anywhere in the UK and why it would set a dangerous precedent for this to go ahead. After ten minutes of me talking, off we set.

The evening was all about a celebration of the songster and a chance to wonder and be wowed and captivated by its song and sheer charisma. Many of the group had never heard one and with the sun out and a warmer evening than last Thursday I promised them an unforgettable evening, once heard never forgotten.

Along the Creek track after 15 minutes we heard our first male limbering up with four or five whistling notes, before the bubbling song bursts forth. Progressing along the track to the Thames, another male serenaded us giving everyone a shower of song and, as promised, an unforgettable experience. To add to this magical experience the sunset over the river toward Essex was nothing short of spectacular.

We then turned the corner into the Saxon Shore Way, low scrub either side where things were about to get even better. Both sides had males singing all in competition, and there's nothing like a bit of competition to bring out the best (and sometimes worst) in any male of any species and the nightingale is no exception. It is incredible to be four or so metres from a bird singing at that volume as we were on several occasions that evening and not even to get a glimpse of the famed songster.

It reduced one visitor almost to tears. So, beautiful, so melodious a sound.

To add to this enchanted evening, it was a full moon, a Flower Moon as this heavenly body in May Springtime is known.

But the nightingales were not the only birds around the first common terns were overhead.

Cettis' warbler amazed the audience with their explosive song and, like the subject of the evening once heard not forgotten.

David Saunders