At this time of year you can find people behaving a little oddly at RSPB Pulborough Brooks nature reserve in West Sussex; peering into bushes for hours on end in search of a little brown bird.
But this isn’t just any little brown bird; they’ll be looking for a nightingale – a bird that’s renowned for skulking almost as much as it is revered for its incredible song.
The nightingale’s song has been celebrated for thousands of years, giving rise to legends, fairy tales, music and poetry, but sadly, fewer and fewer people are able to experience this wonder of nature.
These amazing songsters undergo a long and arduous journey to get here, before competing for a territory and a mate, and then raising a family.
Paul Spiers, RSPB Warden told us: “With such steep declines in the population of nightingales over the past 40 years, it is great that Pulborough Brooks has become a stronghold for this threatened species.
“We work hard to give them a home here, coppicing woodland and creating scrub. All the scruffy bits, the dense patches of bramble and blackthorn thickets, are actually very carefully managed.”
Anna Allum, RSPB Visitor officer says: “Our first nightingale was reported this morning on 10 April, and within an hour we had reports of 3 of them singing.
“The singing is a boy thing – they’re showing off and trying to attract a mate, and the competition between rival males means that we’re in for a real treat!”
From Saturday 26 April to Monday 5 May, the team at Pulborough Brooks is hosting its annual Nightingale Festival.
As well as evening and early morning walks, you can enjoy the incredible sound of the nightingales throughout the day when friendly staff and volunteers will be stationed around the nature trail at the nightingale hotspots.
Whilst nightingales will sing during the daytime, there is something magical about hearing them as the daylight fades.
Join the ‘evening concert’ which launches the festival on Saturday 26 April as guides will lead you around the trails to enjoy this awe-inspiring performance.
The walks leave the visitor centre at 7.30pm and 8 pm, but the shop and café will be open from 6.30pm and serving hot soup and sandwiches, teas and cake.
Anna added: “The dawn chorus here is wonderful too; you arrive in the darkness, all you can see is the stars, and all you can hear is the song of the nightingale!
“We’re running a dawn chorus walk on Saturday 03 May (with a 4am start) which ends with a splendid cooked breakfast. But if you find the idea of getting up before 4 in the morning a little daunting, try our ‘not quite dawn’ chorus walks on Monday 5 May which start at the more civilised time of 8am. Bird song on a bank holiday, perhaps followed by a lazy breakfast in the café - what could be better?”
During the daytime, you simply need to pay the nature trail entry fee (£3.50 for adults/free to members) before heading out to experience the song.
Charges do apply to the evening concert and ‘not quite dawn’ chorus, but you do not need to book in advance. If you feel up to the early start of the dawn chorus, there is a charge and you will need to book in advance as numbers are limited.
The reserve is located off the A283 between Pulborough and Storrington. For further information on this event or the reserve, contact the visitor centre on 01798 875851, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Report contributed by RSPB Pulborough Brooks. Pictured is a Nightingale at Pulborough Brooks by Chris Prince.