A long time ago, before cassette recorders even, my Dad and I spent hours standing in the back garden pointing a microphone in the general direction of a singing nightingale. The results were mixed.
Wind, holding the microphone by hand, planes, dogs barking, forgetting not to talk (I was only 9) all took their toll.
But in between, the liquid rhapsody of a nightingale jug, jug, jugging away.
‘Our’ nightingale, in the garden.
I still have the Grundig reel to reel tape recorder but haven’t relocated the tape. To be fair it may have been hidden by members of the family who were subjected to hours of unedited recording (wind, dogs and all).
I must stress that this early formative experience did not convert me into a competent sound recordist – this will become apparent.
The saddest thing in this story is that its now well over a decade since I last heard a nightingale any where near the garden, let alone in it. A small personal testament to the loss of nightingales in the UK over the last few decades – half have gone since 1995.
All this came together when Chris Rose asked us to promote his campaign to get the BBC to mark the 90th anniversary of the first outside broadcast of nightingales with cello accompaniment. As Chris explains this become an annual event on the BBC up until the depths of the Second World War.
Nightingales have sung their way into the consciousness of our country – popping up in literature and popular culture – yet they are in trouble and if their decline is to be halted action needs to be taken.
They a long-distant migrant – facing the perils of a difficult journey to and from their African wintering home. And here in the UK their most important site at Lodge Hill, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, in north Kent is under threat from proposals to build 5000 houses. The plight of long-distance migrant birds is a rapidly growing area of work for the RSPB and others - and I'll return to that topic in future posts.
So the alignment of an anniversary, the campaign to save Lodge Hill and some long-remembered time of standing in a wood with my Dad waving a microphone in the general direction of a nightingale inevitably led me to my current predicament of having agreed to live stream nightingales from North Kent!
What could possible be a problem with that!
Matching the microphone to my hair-colour, a vital first step in a journey of technological discovery. Picture by Brian Reid, photographer and supplier of advice and kit!
The plan is coming together – with a great deal of help, I hasten to add. And I’ll keep you updated!
Follow me on twitter.
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