Nightingale song makes for a magical May

Saturday 3rd May 2014

Common nightingale cpt Dave Appleton

New guide offers great places for nightingale and cuckoo

You'll be spellbound as you listen to the nightingale's song

Famed throughout history due to its melodious call, now is the time to listen out for the nightingale – and The Wildlife Trusts offer great places to see and hear these singing stars.

May is the best time of year to hear the nightingale’s song, celebrated by artists, poets and storytellers for thousands of years.

In Greek myth, Procne was transformed into a nightingale to sing a sad lament for the death of her son. John Keats’ poem Ode to a Nightingale describes the ease and clarity with which the nightingale announces summer and the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Nightingale tells of an ailing Chinese Emperor restored to health by the trilling of the bird.

But none of these classical masters can quite capture the beauty of hearing the nightingale sing first hand.  This May, there are a number of Wildlife Trust nature reserves and events where you can close your eyes and be spellbound by the nightingale’s call.

According to country lore the cuckoo appears on St. George’s Day.  They will stay until the end of summer before heading back to north Africa. It has generally been regarded as the harbinger of spring and, according to a Gloucester rhyme, “The cuckoo comes in April, Sings a song in May; Then in June another tune, And then she flies away.”

Listen to the cuckoo's call

The familiar call 'cuck-oo, cuck-oo' is imitated by the common name; which later on in the year is followed by the females 'bubbling' call.  During their summer visits, female cuckoos often lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, allowing the mother birds - particularly of dunnocks, pipits and reed warblers - to raise their young.  

The Wildlife Trusts offer opportunities to see and hear these enigmatic birds with our new great places to see and hear cuckoos & nightingales’ guide.

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