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And a nightingale sang...

PUBLISHED: 18:03 18 December 2006 | UPDATED: 12:10 22 October 2010

LORNA MARSH

We have all heard of nightingales singing in Berkeley Square - but now a charity is launching a bid to bring the rare songbirds to a Norfolk wood.

We have all heard of nightingales singing in Berkeley Square - but now a charity is launching a bid to bring the rare songbirds to a Norfolk wood.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) has launched a £25,000 Christmas appeal to create a nightingale reserve at Foxley Wood. The money is needed to carry out the essential habitat restoration work that will provide ideal conditions for the supreme songster.

The trust is becoming increasingly concerned about the “alarming” decline of some of Britain's woodland bird species and numbers of nightingales in particular in Norfolk has dwindled with sadly few places where their distinctive “enchanting” calls can still be heard.

Commemorated by many poets and in prose, NWT bosses said they are determined to give nightingales the best possible chance in Norfolk.

Director Brendan Joyce said: “Foxley Wood is a magical place and a jewel in our woodland crown.

“As the days grow colder and Christmas approaches, imagine the beautiful song of a nightingale. It is one of the most enchanting experiences possible.

“Please make a donation to support our restoration work - with your help nightingales could be heard singing in Foxley wood.”

The NWT wants to establish a regular regime of coppicing and restoration in their largest remaining ancient woodland at Foxley, which is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book in 1086 and is believed to be more than 4,000 years old.

A trust spokeswoman said: “People have been trying to create suitable habitats for nightingales, but Foxley Wood is a really great place for NWT to try.

“For much of the past 1,000 years, it was a working woodland; the result a rich and diverse habitat with trees and shrubs of varying heights for birds, plants and animals.

“Unfortunately, over the last century woodlands became increasingly neglected and nightingale numbers fell. NWT purchased Foxley Wood in 1988 and has been working to restore it.”

The famous song of the nightingale - Latin name Luscinia Megarhynchos - is a fast succession of rich high and low and rich notes that few other species can match.

The birds, which are slightly larger than robins, with a robust, broad-tailed, plain brown appearance, are only seen in the South East of England but are more common in southern Europe.

In 1999 the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) carried out a survey and found 326 male singing nightingales in Norfolk, although at least 10 of these were almost certainly migrants. Norfolk's share of the population in England was 7pc.

Nightingales are present on some of NWT's reserves, including Weeting Heath, but not in great numbers.

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