Country diary: we are down to our last male nightingale

Country diary: we are down to our last male nightingale

Billingshurst, West Sussex: Last year the nightingales were a lockdown highlight. Now there is just a solitary, defiant song

The wind is subsiding and the sun is beginning to set, lighting up the edges of the clouds. I follow the worn footpath across the fields on the outskirts of the town and almost immediately hear the nightingale, its pure voice carrying through the cold evening air.

This time last year, I found three singing males holding territory around these fields, hidden in the dense trees, hedges and brambles. There was a fourth singing near the railway line, too – also in thick, undisturbed vegetation. Those birds were my highlight of last spring’s lockdown – their varied, virtuoso songs lifted my spirits then. But all I can find is this single bird. Ten years ago we had even more, but a combination of building and tidiness reduced their numbers to just the occasional nightingale – until last year.

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