Proud Songsters

The thrushes sing as the sun is going,
And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,
And as it gets dark loud nightingales
In bushes
Pipe, as they can when April wears,
As if all Time were theirs.

These are brand new birds of twelvemonth’s growing,
Which a year ago, or less than twain,
No finches were, nor nightingales,
Nor thrushes,
But only particles of grain,
And earth, and air and rain.

Whilst finches and thrushes are commonly sights in the village, I have never ever heard a real nightingale, anywhere, let alone seen one.  From April to June the male sings to attract a mate and its music has inspired poets such as Keats and Coleridge as well as Thomas Hardy.  The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust says that the nightingale song is fast disappearing from the countryside with the population having fallen by up to 90% over the last 40 years.  It is thought that problems in their African wintering grounds and habitat losses in this country are the problem.  So, in February, the Trust planted some 1700 trees on one of its reserves near to a known nightingale site with a view to providing a habitat away from human encroachment.  Nightingales nest in low scrub or coppiced woodland, with a variety of undergrowth plants such as brambles and honeysuckle that provide nesting sites and insects to feed on.  So, maybe one day I shall hear that song.  Meanwhile, the wistful and rather hypnotic Hardy will have to do: a poem first published in Winter Words following his death in 1928, and often set to music since then.

April 2011

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