Thursday 5 May 2016

And a Nightingale sang in... Gatwick Airport?!

Roving Records: North West Zone 3rd May 2016

There are certain clues that it will be a day of burgeoning wildlife, such as an incredibly warm morning after an extended cold snap. As soon as we got out of the car we spotted a flock of Swifts (Apus apus) high overhead, screaming as they drifted northwards - the first of 2016 for our site.

Scrub and grassland west of Brockley Wood

We wandered through a cacophony of different warbler songs; Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Garden Warbler could all be heard here.

Reed beds along the River Mole

Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) are summer visitors from Sub-Saharan Africa, and they have now begun their chugging tunes along the River Mole...

A young male Kestrel seemed to watch us disapprovingly, until the alarm calls of small woodland birds caused it to move on.

My 2nd worst picture ever taken of a Kestrel (yes, there are worse)

Walking our usual reptile transect, we counted 6 Grass Snakes (Natrix natrix) under the refugia, including a massive adult female and 2 tiny juveniles (probably last year's hatchlings). There was no sign of the unusually striped or black individuals from last year.

A faded yellow collar on a Grass Snake can indicate an aged individual

Of course, it is not just the reptiles using these mats...

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

A young vole, possibly Short-tailed Vole (Microtus agrestis)

Glow-worm larva (Lampyris noctiluca)

Donald meets his first ever Glow-worm

As we stood up from replacing a reptile mat, a low, bubbling call made Donald and myself exchange the exact same quizzical look, and a hesitation to be the first to speak...

   'That's a.....'
   'Nightingale!' Donald finished.

As if on cue, a wonderful stream of notes, then it blasted into full song. This really is an exciting find, so as soon as got back to the computer I trawled Gatwick's old ecological reports... yes, this is a new species for the site! 

I popped back around 11pm last night with Katherine to take this recording

We suspect this male might be a bit out on a limb here, so fingers crossed that a passing female hears him too. Although they can be heard in the daytime, they are definitely best heard at night, when all the other birds have quietened down.
Nightingale from The RSPB on Vimeo.

Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) are a rapidly declining species in UK, largely due to the loss of their out-grown, scrubby habitats. Fortunately a few nature reserves such as the Knepp Re-wilding project have become hotspots for these birds. They only tend to sing from May until early June, so get your Nightingale fix now and book onto a Knepp Safari !

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