A most romantic evening


It was a spontaneous thing – romance often is.

It just happens.

It was after supper and I mentioned to Kay did she fancy going out for a romantic walk?

I am not sure if she realised the ulterior motive.

A special bird had been reported the day before at a spot that I knew on Shapwick Heath in the Avalon Marshes.

It was a lovely still evening – what’s not to like?

So off we popped – it only takes 20 minutes to get there from home and by 7.30pm we were in position.

The bushes and shrubs were full of song – mostly blackcaps, which it has to be said has a lovely song – but it wasn’t our man.

Blackbirds whistled, wrens sang, and robins trilled from deep within the bushes.

Our man was silent.

We wandered quietly a little bit further along the track.

Overhead 5 great white egrets flew in combat formation, quickly followed by a hobby, then a female marsh harrier – let’s be honest on any other day you would have been happy with that – but that was not why we were here. It got busier when a dozen cattle egret turned up looking for a spot to roost.

On the water a graceful great crested grebe sidled past looking as cool as any bird can look. But not as dapper as our man.

We wandered back into position and waited in silence.

The last of the evening walkers nodded goodnight as they headed back to their car.

We were left alone.

Alone in the gloaming.

The blackcaps and the blackbirds went silent.

Then we got a burst…

Just 2 seconds worth.

Did you hear it I whispered?

No. Kay was checking her phone – getting slightly bored.

We waited 10 more minutes – nothing.

10 more – still nothing.

Then again – we got another short burst.

We both heard it – our eyes widened, and we smiled at each other.

More nothing.

Then a bloke appeared.

A bloke with an RSPB hat on – Andy from Pembrokeshire had heard that a special bird was in the area - was this the spot?

We whispered pleasantries while checking our watches.

We’ll give it until half-eight, then we must make a move for home – the kids will be worrying about us - role reversal or wot?

Half-eight comes and still all is silent.

Andy decides to stay – we wish him well.

You know what will happen - as soon as we leave it will let rip.

20 yards down the track, and back over our shoulders there comes a burst of the most beautiful song we had ever heard.

That bloody Andy has played his Bird-Call App at full blast to ‘boot it out’ I thought (somewhat uncharitably).

But no, (and sincere apologies to Andy) he was waving frantically for us to come back.

We hurried back to the spot as quickly and quietly as we could.

Our man was in full song, filling the darkening evening with a song that has beguiled mankind since time began.

I had never heard one before and I was not disappointed.

Andy beckoned me three yards further along and pointed to the silhouette of a small delicate bird with its beak open wide and its throat vibrating to the gushing song pouring out from its little heart.

Our man, the nightingale put on a performance that Kay and I shall never forget.

Romance is alive and well on the Somerset Levels


Graeme Mitchell