Nightingale Survey 2012


Interested? Please contact Mick Wright ( (01473 710032) for further information or to be allocated a tetrad in Suffolk to survey for nightingales in 2012.

Please note the survey has been extended by a week to May 20th.
There are 350 tetrads selected for surveying, with 258 of these being priorities for the nocturnal surveys.
Introduction: Within Britain, the distribution of nightingales has always been restricted to the southeast. Atlas data since the 1960s, however, have shown a clear contraction of breeding range away from the western and northern limits. Census data also show that numbers have declined strongly in recent decades. The BBS indicates that, between 1995 and 2009, the British nightingale population decreased by 57%. One possible explanation for the decline is that habitat suitable for nightingales to breed in is becoming scarcer. Nightingales are long-distance migrants, wintering in West Africa.
During the 2012 breeding season, volunteers will be conducting a full survey of breeding nightingales across Britain. The main aim of the survey is to map all singing males and compare their numbers and distribution with results from the previous national survey in 1999.
A completely new element of the 2012 survey will investigate how many males are singing at night later in the spring. Recent research suggests that only unpaired males continue to sing during the darkest hours of the night, whereas all territorial males sing in the daytime (especially at dawn and dusk).
Methods: Visits to tetrads known to have been recently occupied by singing nightingales will form the main part of the survey.  Volunteers should visit each of their allocated tetrads at least twice during the early spring (27 April to 14 May). Each visit should cover all suitable nightingale habitat within the tetrad and should be made in the early morning (before 8.30 a.m.). Volunteers should map any singing nightingales onto a pre-printed survey form. Basic habitat information will also be requested.
There will also be optional nocturnal visits to occupied tetrads (ideally at least two during the period 18 May to 4 June). The main aim of these visits will be to discover whether singing birds already detected by the daytime surveys are in song during the hours between midnight and 3 a.m., indicating that these are unpaired individuals. A sample of tetrads will be priorities for nocturnal visits but these visits will be useful in any occupied tetrad.
Nocturnal visits will not be required in tetrads found to be unoccupied from daytime surveys.

All casual observations of singing nightingales in 2012 should be reported to the Regional Organizer (Mick Wright) or using BirdTrack. Each record should include the time of day, a six-figure grid reference and, where possible, an indication of habitat type.