Nightingale Survey - volunteers needed

Tuesday 13th March 2018

Nightingale by Dan PowellNightingale by Dan Powell

Hampshire Ornithological Society and Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust are joining forces to try and halt the decline of the common nightingale in Hampshire.

The common nightingale Luscina meghynchos is widely celebrated in literature and music for the beauty of its song. It is one of the most eagerly anticipated summer migrants and a true sign that the dull and dreary days of winter are behind us and spring has finally sprung. But imagine if future generations were unable to enjoy this beautiful songster and its presence in Hampshire was assigned to history.

The nightingale is in trouble across the British Isles and has undergone a marked range contraction and overall population decline. The recently published Birds of Conservation Concern 4 identified 67 species as being of the greatest conservation concern; the nightingale was one of those, and was elevated from the Amber to the Red list after these declines.

In Hampshire, the nightingale has declined dramatically since the 1950s. At the time of the 1986-9 Atlas, that county population was estimated at 204 – 360 pairs . During the most recent survey, organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the population had dropped to 61 – 65 pairs and their overall range fell by three quarters . Initial indications from 2017 records suggest approximately 25 territories.

To help establish the locations and number of breeding territories of our local nightingales’, we plan to carry out a full survey of all areas of suitable habitat during the 2018 breeding season. Armed with that information we will be hoping to engage with local landowners and encourage them to bring sites back into favourable condition for the nightingale. This includes creating patches of dense scrub along woodland edges, to provide nesting and feeding opportunities.

To do this we need your help – we are looking for surveyors to help with our surveys. The plan is to carry out surveys using the same methodology as that used by the BTO in 2012. A minimum of two surveys carried out between 21st April and 20th May, covering all tetrads that are known to have supported nightingales in recent years and have suitable habitat. In addition, we are requesting nocturnal visits, to be carried out between midnight and 02:00, between the 18th May and 4th June, to establish the presence of unpaired males. Given the timing of these nocturnal surveys I would like to stress that these are optional.

If you are confident with identifying nightingale song, and would like to help out with nightingale surveys in Hampshire in 2018, please contact Trevor Codlin at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust on