Nightingales on our reserves

, 09 May 2022
Nightingales on our reserves
Nightingale © James Duncan

By Glenn Norris

Reserves Ecologist 

Nightingales are everywhere in West Sussex! It’s a miracle the residents of Coldwaltham, Ebernoe or Dial Post get any sleep. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating slightly, but I’m looking forward to the results of this year’s Sussex Ornithology Society survey of Nightingale to see if they are doing well in the county.

© Hugh Clark FRPS

I started recording Nightingales in 2020 as part of the monitoring I do to track trends in the number of territories and their distribution across the reserves. At Woods Mill they were regulars with a high of four territories in the scrub around the reedbed and leat, although now we have one intermittently as they prefer the more suitable habitat over the road. They remind me of this as I catch their song on the breeze as I’m doing my survey on the Nightingale-less Woods Mill.

The results of these surveys mean the Land Management team will spring in to action this winter and start to clear over-grown scrub in order to encourage the dense growth that provides the security for their nests. Having several territories nearby as well as historic territories mean it shouldn’t be long after the work that birds will start returning.

At Butcherlands, near Ebernoe, I only recorded nine territories in 2020, but this almost doubled in 2021 with a record high of 17 territories across the 80 hectare project; a Nightingale density of under 1 per 5 ha (N/ha). It got to a stage where hours after the survey, if I closed my eyes for even a second all I could hear was the *obnoxious clanging and whistling of their song stuck in my head as I tried to get to sleep.

I guess I had become accustomed to rarity and began to take it for granted, but after taking my parents to hear their first Nightingale this weekend, through them I was able to hear the song again as if for the first time. When enjoyed as the spectacle it is, rather than scientifically mapped as the location of potential nesting pairs, it’s far less annoying.

Early signs this year show that there will be slightly fewer territories but more of them within field interiors rather than the margins indicating the developing scrub is the structure most suitable for this species. 

Here’s to more of their success and headaches for me as I track their progress on the Sussex Wildlife Trust reserves.

*views expressed by our Ecologist do not necessarily reflect the views of Sussex Wildlife Trust

Leave a comment


  • Sally:

    With a group of friends in Abbotts Wood, Hailsham on Tuesday, and Heard {and some saw} Nightingales on the Abbotts Amble track on the way back to car park.

    13 May 2022 08:28:00

  • There is a nightingale every year that comes to Sayers Common. He was singing last night.

    13 May 2022 08:51:00

  • Keith Valentine:

    What about Seaford Head? I heard my one and only British Nightingale at Hope Bottom last summer.

    13 May 2022 10:02:00

  • Angela Woolley:

    Hello, we’re staying 4 nights in Alfriston, East Sussex from tomorrow and wondered if you could tell us if we can hear nightingales anywhere near that area? Many thanks

    16 May 2022 10:46:00

  • Sussex Wildlife Trust:

    Hi Angela, Abbot's Wood between Polegate and Hailsham is a good place to try to hear Nightingales in East Sussex

  • Catherine:

    I am taking my husband on his birthday this week to try to hear a nightingale – Ebernoe sounds reliable but Dial Post is a little nearer to us – could you recommend where to go in Dial Post – I am not familiar with the area . Thank you

    17 May 2022 10:56:00

  • Sussex Wildlife Trust:

    Hi Catherine. We suggest the Knepp Estate Happy birthday to your husband.