From the nightingale to the linnet, via the blackcap and the corn bunting, UK birdsong is as unique and inspiring as the music it influences
Nightingales have played the unwitting muse to human poets, playwrights and composers for centuries, from Shakespeare and Hardy to Coleridge and Tchaikovsky. Last year, Nitin Sawhney received a front-row performance from one such feathered troubadour during the making of TV show The Animal Symphony – an experience the initially sceptical composer described to me as “a revelation”.
This month, the organisers behind the UK’s National nightingale festival are hoping to give us all a chance to enjoy these notoriously shy and increasingly rare icons, with a month of guided walks, talks and nature concerts, combining live folk music and storytelling with in situ birdsong. It’s a fine way to honour the return of these small, brown, thrush-like beauties, who winter in west Africa before flying over 2,500 miles to spend summer in the English countryside.