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Wildlife

Birds, History, UK Travel, Wildlife, Woodlands

Nature’s Most Romantic Song – The Nightingale

The sound is so clear it wraps itself around us like a warm blanket.  It’s 8.30pm and the liquid trills and repeated phrases serenade us as we sit in the garden on long cushions delighted by this beautiful evening concert.

The melody is endlessly varied. For about an hour the bird sings in deep, clear notes. Yasmine, 10, sits happily wrapped up in the same blanket as me, enchanted by the performance which like an opera carries us on a journey. We understand the words even though it’s in a different language.

It’s the nightingale. The beautiful, nocturnal chorister. He’s flown 3,000 miles from west Africa to reach the UK.

19 May 1924 was the first day radio listeners heard a cello playing while nightingales sang, live from a Surrey garden. The cellist was Beatrice Harrison, who had recently performed the British debut of Delius's Cello Concerto, which had been written for her. The nightingales were the birds in the woods around Harrison's home in Oxted, who were attracted by the sound of her cello.

19 May 1924 was the first day radio listeners heard a cello playing while nightingales sang, live from a Surrey garden. The cellist was Beatrice Harrison, who had recently performed the British debut of Delius’s Cello Concerto, which had been written for her. The nightingales were the birds in the woods around Harrison’s home in Oxted, who were attracted by the sound of her cello.

May is the best time to hear nightingales as the males who arrive first sing to establish territory and attract a mate.

Sussex, Suffolk and Kent are the best places in the UK to hear the nightingales song.

Nightingale Tales:

In 1924, a famous cellist, Beatrice Harrison was practicing in her garden in Oxted, Surrey, when she heard the nightingale respond with its own song to her beautiful tune.

Night after night she played and the bird sang with her. She wanted to share her extraordinary experience and persuaded BBC radio to record it.

Lord Reith, founder and director general of the BBC initially didn’t support the idea, complaining it was a costly and unpredictable exercise as birds could be prima donnas.

The engineers prepared the microphone, Beatrice played, the broadcast was live…but the nightingale was silent.

Then finally 15 minutes before the end of the broadcast, he sung and sung.

The public were enthralled. The performance was so popular it was repeated the next month and then every spring for 12 years.

Here is a clip of Beatrice Harrison’s cello and nightingale duet, 19 May 1924 on BBC Radio.

Did a nightingale sing in Berkeley Square? Romantics all over the world who love the British wartime song written in 1939 would like to believe they did.

Doubters say almost certainly not as nightingales prefer woodland with a dense undergrowth. But nightingales were once found in London. We know the nightingales on Hampstead Heath inspired Keats to write his Ode to a Nightingale.

 

One February, Margaret Thatcher is reported to have told a senior official that she heard a nightingale singing outside 10 Downing Street. The aide, a keen birdwatcher, explained that she must be mistaken as the nightingale is a woodland bird and a late spring migrant.

The Prime Minister kept insisting, but the aide was equally determined. On the third time her private secretary intervened and said discreetly, ‘If the Prime Minister says she heard a nightingale, then she heard a nightingale.’

The beautiful song of a nightingale singing in East Sussex. This was recorded from our garden last night.

 

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The Best of the Bluebells

‘When I grow up, I want to be a fairy,’ says our five-year-old Sissi as she balances along the trunk of fallen tree, in a field of bluebells.
The wind creates a ripple of radiant violet blue. The bluebells nod to one another, respectfully bowing to the unseen nature spirits. 
‘Chiff Chaff, chiff chaff, chiff chaff.’ The beautiful olive brown birds with the stripe across their eyes sing joyfully announcing their arrival from the Mediterranean or West Africa.
It’s the best time of year to see the Chiff Chaff, as they dart around the tree canopy, singing loudly to establish a breeding territory. When the trees are in full leaf, they will rarely be seen in the open, choosing to hide in their green leafy world.
So quick, get outside. Enjoy the the bluebells and Chiff Chaffs now, while the sunlight is warming the forest floor, before the leaves cover the forest canopy once again.
Shot with a super telephoto Canon 400mm2.8 & 2x Converter

Shot with a super telephoto Canon 400mm2.8 & 2x Converter

April Bluebells in Sussex

April Bluebells in Sussex

 

HERE ARE SOME OF THE  BEST PLACES TO SEE BLUEBELLS IN THE UK.
Hole Park Gardens, East Sussex
Hole Park, Benenden Road, Rolvenden, Kent, TN17 4JA
Blickling Estate, Norfolk
Blickling, Bickling, Norfolk NR11 6NF 
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River Walking

Splash in the water, scramble over the stones, slide off rocks. We took our family to the River Barle in Somerset for a fantastic adventure.

There’s something magical about a river where salmon choose to lay their eggs. The young salmon then swim out to sea, some as far as Greenland, before returning as adults to lay their own eggs.
‘If I were a salmon, I’d be happy to start my journey in this river,’ says Emil our seven-year-old son. The River Barle in Somerset looks like a grand avenue with ancient trees, their branches hanging over the water, marking its ceremonial route on both sides.

We start our two kilometre circular walk at the Tarr Stepps ‘clapper’ bridge. Seventeen huge stone slabs make a majestic path across the river.

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Perfectly Puffin

Every year thousands of puffins land on a select few islands and we have three short months to see them before they go out to sea again for the rest of the year.
We took our four children to the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland for their annual puffin pilgrimage.
There’s a storm brewing. The sea has turned a menacing petrol blue.
‘I’m sorry we have to cancel,’ says the captain. ‘You won’t enjoy it, there’s 47mph winds predicted. You don’t want to get thrown around on a boat out there.’
But that’s where he was wrong. My husband Stuart and my children don’t care about getting thrown around. They do care, however, about seeing the puffins.
The puffins have been elusive to us this year. We were in Scotland hoping to sail from Anstruther, in Fife, to the Isle Of May to visit them, but bad weather kept cancelling the boat.
Undeterred, we drove to Northumberland to try our luck in the Farne Islands, a seabird nirvana that we’d always intended to visit.
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