The nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) is a bird of legendary singing abilities, and continues its’ song after dark. Its’ Old English form, nihtgale, actually means "night songstress", although it is the male that actually sings.
It has been celebrated frequently in poetry from the time of Sappho in the sixth century B.C, and was most famously immortalised in John Keat’s sonnet. It is one of the migratory species and spends the winter in west Africa.
Late in the evening on 19th May, 1924, the BBC made its first live wildlife outside broadcast, from the cellist Beatrice Harrison's garden. A nightingale joined in, singing as she played. Listeners were so entranced by this duet that the cello and nightingale concerts were broadcast annually, eagerly awaited by listeners around the globe. Listen to Sam Lee celebrate the 90th anniversary of this event in the programme below:
Like many other species its’ numbers have declined substantially in recent years. As Michael McCarthy sadly observed in Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo, "...for the vast majority, myth was all that remained: the Nightingale’s corporeal being had vanished, leaving only an image behind it .”