On Wednesday 1st May, the BBC Springwatch crew arrived at RSPB Pulborough Brooks, West Sussex for an extra special visit.
We were in search for nightingales; one of RSPB Pulborough Brooks most famous breeding species, which attracts thousands of people to the reserve during the National Nightingale Festival.
As with any wildlife filming, it’s impossible to guarantee that you will find what you are looking for, but one of our male nightingales quickly became the star of the show, helping soundman Gary Moore highlight just how severe the plight is for these incredible birds; which have suffered a staggering 90% UK population decline in the last 40 years.
In fact, some of our rarer wildlife was so keen to be on screen that the loud call of a cuckoo, while an interview took place, resulted in a few extra takes!
But after dark was when the real show began…the male nightingale sang uninterrupted for hours into the night, and we captured a moment few people ever get to hear in person these days. Hearing the sound captured with Gary's specialist recording equipment; just the pure liquid notes of nightingale song with all background noise removed; was an experience I will never forget.
Not content with stunning nightingale solos and calling cuckoos, the crew and I stayed up right throughout the night to discover the other secret sounds (and sights) of the reserve as the sun started to rise.
Dawn chorus at RSPB Pulborough Brooks is an incredible experience. The reserve features a mosaic of habitats; we choose traditional woodland, to hear wrens, blackbirds, robins and blackcaps, but if you wander to the wetland, or head down the heath and you can hear a whole host of species you might not have discovered before.
Gary asked how people can help save our UK nightingales. Lots of conservation organisations, like ours, are working hard to ensure that these secretive songsters have safe spaces to breed, but sadly, the dense scrub and overgrown thickets that they nest in can look messy, unmanaged and are often in prime locations for development. If you are lucky enough to have nightingales in your patch, the best way to help is to tell people how valuable these scrubby habitats are, and track any sightings of nightingales via BTO’s Birdtrack to help map their populations.
Want to experience an RSPB reserve at dawn or dusk for yourself? We hold night-time safaris and dawn chorus events throughout the year.
Image credits -
Nightingale at RSPB Pulborough Brooks, Ben Andrew
BBC Springwatch filming, Sara Humphrey
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654