Nightingales are Ventriloquists

I don’t have a bucket list, but one of the things I’d wanted to do for some time was to hear Nightingales singing. About this time last year I got my chance. I’d booked an evening walk with the senior ranger at RSPB Fingringhoe Wick reserve in Essex. I turned up there, along with about eight other people, for about 7.30pm. There was a chilly breeze but it was dry and bright. Fingringhoe is a lovely reserve that used to be a number of gravel and sand extraction quarries that, over time, have filled with water. Nature has taken over; creating lots of scrub through which a network of paths has been created. We were led off down one of these paths and very soon brought to a halt by the ranger, to listen to our first Nightingale.

It wasn’t a disappointment. Sharp, clear and very fluid birdsong emanated from the scrub. Nightingales don’t sing from an elevated perch where we could easily see them. They’re very secretive and consequently very hard to spot. However, they are LOUD! The ranger told us that they try to out compete each other with their song and sheer volume. In fact, if there is any other noise nearby, they will sing even louder.

One of our group asked how we could see them. With difficulty, came the reply; in fact if you look for them at the point where their song seems to be, you won’t find them there. Apparently they can throw their voice, or rather their song, upwards. The better to be heard by other Nightingales, while staying safely in the scrub. One tip was to look about three or four feet below the point the sound appeared to be coming from and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot it. However, if you are that lucky, and that day we weren’t, one thing’s for certain…. You’ll see its beak moving.

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