Nightingales in the
Low Weald

About the Project

Nightingales are a small passerine bird, known for their beautiful song in spring but otherwise fairly drab in appearance. Their famous song is disappearing from the countryside as numbers have fallen in Britain by 90% in the last 50 years and there are increasingly few places where it is possible to find them. Less than 6,000 pairs are thought to remain nationally.

Their decline is thought to be related to changes in woodland management and deer pressure altering woodland structure and regrowth are thought to be key factors. Fortunately, Kent, including the low weald, is one of their last strongholds. We are trying to find out more about this wonderful bird, such as where they are, what habitat they need and what farmers in the cluster could do to help their population rebound.


Phase 1

  • Help farmers in the low weald identify the nightingale

  • Learn about their preferred habitat and how to replicate this by visiting successfully breeding populations within the farmer cluster

  • Collate information such as sightings of nightingales from farms across the cluster

Phase 2

  • Develop a methodology with cluster members to survey Nightingales across the landscape

  • Utilise the survey results, understanding of woodland management and ongoing monitoring to inform a programme of interventions across the cluster to increase the population

  • Channel funding such as net gain and Local Nature Recovery to reward farmers for these conservation interventions
Nightingale sat on a branch with open mouth.


Events and other communications were planned to bring information of nightingales to cluster members attention. A key location was identified and the farmer was able to host walks for other members to hear the nightingales.

Coordination with Kent Wildlife Trust ecologists has started for phase 2, to plan and implement a more thorough survey and ongoing monitoring.


  • In 2020 and 2021 Cluster members attended a series of walks at Moat Farm to learn about nightingales, what they sound like, and where to find them. Farmer Mike Bax hosted these walks and explained how the coppicing regime, which started to power a woodchip boiler, was providing the perfect conditions for breeding territories

  • Key information about woodland and scrub management was discussed including the need for thick woodland edge scrub and opening out of woodland to allow low dense thorny thicket to grow. A rotation is essential as the wood progresses and becomes too tall to be of use to the nightingales

  • In 2021 the Farmer Cluster Officer collated information on Nightingale presence across farms in the cluster to begin to form a rough map of their distribution. This will be helpful in planning the phase 2 element of the project


This ongoing work could provide opportunity for farmers in the cluster to bid for Local Nature Recovery options under the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

A Few Facts

  • Nightingales are slightly smaller than a robin and light brown in colour

  • They feed on insects and breed in scrubby woodland or woodland edge habitat

  • They are red listed in the UK, and numbers breeding here have declined by 90%, although Kent remains a stronghold

  • The dramatic decline is thought to be due to a reduction in suitable breeding territory. They need thick scrub or thick coppice regrowth or tall thick hedges
Image of Nightingale in Kent countryside.

Distribution of nightingales as reported to the Farmer Cluster Officer in spring 2021

Map showing the distribution of Nightingale sightings in the Upper Beult area, Kent

If you’ve not listened out for them before, you will want to think about visiting your scrubbiest, or thickest hedge, copse or woodland edge around dusk between April and June. Although they can be found singing throughout the day and later into the night too!

Listen out for the distinctive song, these will be singing males hoping to pair up, try and figure out how many individual males are singing to get an idea on the number of possible breeding territories.

Submit this information to the Farmer Cluster Officer,
Ellen Wilson –