Friday 19 May – Highnam Wood Leader: Lewis Thomson (RSPB)

18 of us waited in the RSPB car park for the rain to stop. Fifteen minutes after our start time our leader, Lewis, was able to address us in drier conditions. We set out along various paths that showed us the product of the careful management that this reserve benefits from. The principal practice is coppicing and is done in a cycle that has shown to best suit breeding Nightingales. The birds move in when the coppice is in its third year but then avoid coppice that is over nine years old. Different management strategies have been tried recently, one forced by Covid when a coppiced area could not be enclosed from browsing deer in time before a forced lockdown. This actually yielded a more varied, natural plot where the coppice stools were exposed to browsing while Blackthorn and Hawthorn were able to dominate. This suited one Nightingale that soon moved in and was singing for us in its second year running. This has encouraged similar management across the reserve and we were even able to detect a Willow Warbler holding territory in new growth scrub – not an expected species we were told by Lewis. Another unexpected species that has found favour at Highnam is Woodcock which regularly rodes over the woodland. Overall, two Nightingales sang, at least one of which was apparently paired. The dominant species, though was Song Thrush, their song constant and non-stop throughout our visit until the end when in the fading light a Nightingale took centre stage sending us all home very satisfied. (Thanks to Lewis for a very interesting evening) Mike Jackson