Friday 17 May – Highnam Woods

On a cool but still evening Hannah Booth, RSPB site manager, gave 19 members another of her informative tours of the woods, with a focus on the habitat management for Nightingales creating blocks of coppice of different ages, together with wet areas. It was interesting to see how a block that we saw when it was newly created in 2017 had matured with its impenetrable Muntjac barrier. Even better, a Nightingale was singing close by the path at the start of our walk. As usual in the early evening Song Thrushes were the loudest and most numerous (over 20) presence. There were also plenty of Blackbirds (eleven), Blackcaps (seven), Wrens, and Chiffchaffs. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were active around a tree hole. The first of two Marsh Tits was heard, and briefly seen. Calls were also heard from Jay, Raven, Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tit, and Goldcrest. We completed the circuit at about 21:00 and a Nightingale was singing loudly and nearby – it was in a different block but may have been the same bird. Song Thrushes were still singing and one persisted with exchanges for a further twenty minutes. It was difficult to leave the mesmerising Nightingale song, and one of us made a recording. Despite the careful management plan and hard work, Nightingales continue to decline in numbers at Highnam. From a recent peak of 20 singing males in 2000, numbers fell to six in 2015, then up to 12 in 2017. It is thought that most of these did not pair and breed successfully and this year there are only four singing males. As Nightingales are highly site faithful, the future remains precarious. Many thanks to Hannah Booth for an excellent evening (22 species including the star performer). Gareth Roberts