Wildlife Trust appalled by destruction of nightingale stronghold

© Amy Lewis

We've condemned the destruction of nightingale habitat at Casbrook Common, near Romsey - the second most important site for the endangered bird in Hampshire

The site has been recognised locally by conservation experts for its importance to wildlife, with 3 of the 25 singing males recorded in the county last year found here.

However local volunteer surveyors working on a new project to record data about nightingales have found that the site has now been bulldozed, just ahead of the bird’s breeding season.

A Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust spokesperson said: “This destruction of one of the last refuges for our nightingales is appalling. It’s doubly tragic that this has come to light just as local conservation organisations and volunteers are working together to identify where this wonderful bird can still be found, and protect it.

“We’re also deeply concerned that under government planning policy proposals, local wildlife sites like these will have even less protection. Cases like this show why the government must act to save our most precious species and take action against those who destroy the last few places they’re clinging on.”

Nightingale singing

© Chris Gomersall - 2020VISION

About nightingales

The common nightingale Luscina meghynchos is widely celebrated in literature and music for the beauty of its song – it’s Old English form nihtgale means ‘night songstress’ (they used to think it was the females that sang). Nightingales are long-distance migrants, wintering in West Africa and then returning to southeast Britain for the summer, Apr-Aug. They breed in mid May, and usually have one clutch of 4-5 eggs a year.

In Hampshire, the nightingale has declined dramatically since the 1950s. In the late 80s, that county population was estimated at 204 – 360 pairs. During the most recent BTO survey, the population had dropped to 61 – 65 pairs and their overall range fell by three quarters.

About the Hampshire and Isle of Wight nightingale project

To help establish the locations and number of breeding territories of our local nightingales, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust is working with the British Trust for Ornithology and Hampshire Ornithological Society to recruit volunteers to carry out a full survey of all areas of suitable habitat in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight during the 2018 breeding season. By identifying singing males at this time of year, we are able to learn more about the species’ distribution, habitat and range.

Armed with that information we will engage with local landowners and encourage them to bring sites back into favourable condition for the nightingale through habitat management. This includes creating patches of dense scrub along woodland edges, to provide nesting and feeding opportunities.