Nightingales At Grafham Water

08:54 Monday 1st July 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Protecting the rare nightingale bird has moved a step closer thanks to the work of Anglian Water and the Wildlife Trust. Last year they fitted ten of these birds with special GPS tracking devices to see where they went. You would have thought they weighed them down a bit, but .. Now two thirds of the creatures have returned to Grafham Water, and our reported Johnny D is at Grafham Water this morning. Morning Johnny.
JOHN DEVINE: Good morning Paul. I’m in a beautiful wild flower meadow here on the banks of the Grafham Water reserve, and what a fantastic scene it is. I’ve got with me Mike Drew from Anglian Water. Where do the nightingales go to? You track them.
MIKE DREW: Yes. We have been tracking them. Nightingales leave the UK, and they fly down to Senegal and the Gambia in West Africa.
JOHN DEVINE: What’s the scale of the decline?
MIKE DREW: The decline since 1995 is to roughly about 52%, so it’s pretty major really.
JOHN DEVINE: Getting pretty serious. Aidan Matthews, Wildlife Trust, why the decline?
AIDAN MATTHEWS: A lot of it is down to habitat degradation and loss. It’s particularly noteworthy that a lot of the land isn’t managed in the way that it used to be, with hands-on activity. And as the scrub gets older, it starts to lose its interest for them. They like dense ground vegetation, and cover at that level. So the work that we do on the site here which really helps them is to go in and using a volunteer team, clear the scrub down, so that it lays flat, but is still attached to the base and keeps growing, and keeps nice and dense down there for them.
JOHN DEVINE: My ears are peeled. I’m listening out. I won’t hear one today though, will I?
AIDAN MATTHEWS: We’re quite late on in the season, but when you are here at the right sort of time, they’re absolutely belting it out. They’ve got 260 different variations of call. A lot of it is unltrasound as well. So it’s out of our hearing range. but what you will hear is the 110 decibels of noise coming at you.
JOHN DEVINE: That’s Motorhead that is. That’s serious.
AIDAN MATTHEWS: Yes that’s some serious volume that they’re putting out. And that can be heard from two hundred, three hundred metres away, which is fantastic for calling in females to set up nightingale nest sites. But that’s how we learn how many birds we have on site, is by going round and listening, at unsociable hours it has to be said. Twelve through to three in the morning, we go out there and we can hear these birds clearer when we haven’t got the noise of everything else around them. And we can hear them for a large distance.
JOHN DEVINE: I bet you can. Now Mike, quickly, what do they look like?
MIKE DREW: The easiest way to describe them is they look a little bit like a robin, without the red breast. So nice rich brown in colour, just the size of a robin. and also, just to put it in context, if you get a two pound coin out, they weigh exactly the same as a two pound coin.
JOHN DEVINE: Fantastic. Thanks very much for joining us boys. So they’re the wildife jukebox of Mother Nature Paul, the wonderful nightingale.